Digital Twins in Construction: Towards an Ontological Model Development and Integration Framework

Funded by the Transforming Construction Network Plus (ESRC/UKRI)
Theme: Architecting the Digital Business
Researchers: Sergio de Cesare, Michael Dzandu, Rob Garvey and Peter Sharratt

Digital technologies have the potential to transform the landscape of the modern construction industry. While technological advancements, like the Internet of Things, provide the necessary digital infrastructure for enabling the physical collection of data, there currently exists limited methodological support for developing and integrating Digital Twins of built assets so that they can be easily shared across the entire industry.

This project will explore the adoption of a foundational ontology-driven framework to support the development and integration of digital twin models in the construction industry across the project lifecycle and across different organisations. Ontology – a branch of philosophy which studies the kinds of things that exist and their relationships – provides the theoretical underpinning to the framework. The framework will be developed by ontologically re-engineering existing digital twin models of built assets and demonstrating improved levels of integration among them. The research will be carried out in collaboration with relevant industrial stakeholders via two workshops aimed at initially understanding the barriers to model integration and subsequently to evaluate the developed framework. This project is highly interdisciplinary and brings together theory and knowledge from philosophy, computing and construction.

The digital business transformation project

Theme: Digital Transformation

Researchers: David Barnes, Sergio de Cesare, Fefie Dotsika, Najmeh Hafezieh (Royal Holloway University of London), Keith Patrick.

The project will investigate the process of digital business transformation, that is the way in which business organisations undertake digital transformations. It aims to develop a best practice model for the process of digital transformation that could be used by any business organisation.  The research has five phases: (1) literature review, (2) empirical research within organisations to identify best practice, (3) methodological framework design, (4) framework evaluation within organisations, and (5) framework refinement.

Digital commerce in traditional industries

Theme: Digital Transformation

Researchers: Galina Gornostaeva and David Barnes

The project investigates how firms in traditional industries are adapting their operating models to incorporate the use of digital technologies.  We adopt the term ‘digital-commerce’ (D-commerce), to refer to channels of exhibiting, marketing and selling products online which includes e-commerce (long-adopted by most businesses) mobile commerce (to meet the needs of the youngest generations of customers) and social media platforms (which have the market place for new products coinciding with decline of traditional press and rise of Internet bloggers and influencers). Innovations involve various advanced techniques, such as visual search, email marketing, Instagram Stories, etc. It is expected that majority of players will soon integrate commerce functionality into social media (s-commerce), enabling direct-to-product journeys.

Ontological Foundations of Digital Twins

Theme: Architecting the digital enterprise

Researchers: Sergio de Cesare, Fefie Dotsika and Michael Dzandu

A digital twin can be defined as a realistic digital representation of a physical thing. Originally conceived decades ago by NASA, digital twins have recently re-emerged in different industries, such as manufacturing and healthcare, thanks to the increased processing, storage and communication  capabilities of modern computing devices. While technological advancements, like the Internet of Things (IoT), provide the necessary digital infrastructure for collecting the necessary amounts of  data required to ensure realistic representations of their real-world counterparts, there currently exists no underlying theoretical model of digital twins capable of explaining what they are and how they relate to what they represent. This research adopts philosophical ontology to answer these questions and develops an ontology of digital twins that can be practically applied in an industrial context for purposes such as performance management and the integration of processes and systems.

Boundary spanning in platforms: the case study of cryptocurrencies on GitHub

Theme: Emerging digital technologies and platforms
Researchers: Farjam Eshraghian and Omid Omidvar-Tehrani (Aston Business School)

Boundary spanning describes the process of actors bridging organisational, disciplinary, and technological boundaries to access knowledge or to innovate. Often contributions have viewed boundaries from the point of view of the focal firm crossing boundaries. Nevertheless, not always boundary spanning is triggered internally. We ask what actions actors span boundaries over time and how they enact boundary spanning?

In this project, we contribute to boundary spanning research by enriching the understanding of routines for permeation and spanning of boundaries. In addition, this research contributes to platform research by extending the conceptualisation of boundaries and how they span across platforms. Our contribution will also be to the routines literature by exploring their dynamics and development in the context of platforms.

Stackelberg game theoretic models for joint optimisation in supply chain design
Theme: Emerging digital technologies and platforms
Researcher: Ray Wu

Any product in the market is sold to fulfil customers’ needs. This forms an overall objective for a supply chain that develops and produces the product. On the other hand, each organisation in the supply chain has its own objectives aligning with the overall objective. Therefore, the product design and supply chain configuration decisions can be constructed as a bi-level joint programming model. The research uses Stackelberg game (leader-follower) theory and evolutionary (genetic) algorithms to obtain the equilibrium as a solution.

A case study of joint PFA (product family architecting) and the supply chain configuration for power transformers was conducted to demonstrate the feasibility and potential of the proposed Stackelberg game theoretic joint optimization of PFA and supply chain decisions. Another case study focuses on decisions of logistics in a supply chain of chilled and frozen goods.

3d printing impact in supply chain design
Theme: Emerging digital technologies and platforms
Researcher: Alan Pilkington

There is little doubt that the emergence of 3d printing or additive technology is a major part of Industry 4.0 and the digital transformation of business. However, it is important to cut through the early noise in the present hype cycle and understand exactly how and where the technology presents opportunities as firms collaborate and integrate processes either with peers or in the supply chain.

This project is examining 3D printing technologies and processes to develop a structured way of recording possible impact and recommending actions for managers. The changes arising from 3d printing includes more than just new options for product design, but also shifts in the manufacturing eco-system and choices for restructuring competitive dynamics. Areas currently being explored include customization due to very late production and design cycles, allowing innovative design ideas (e.g. previously impossible cooling channels in injection molds), the abolition of a need to hold inventory (particularly in spare parts), changing import duties (parts are made locally from generic materials and not transported over boarders), and challenging the need for logistics (making items at hubs means there is no need for shipping).

About Us

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  • Wessel, L., Baiyere, A., Ologeanu-Taddei, R., Cha, J. and Blegind-Jensen, T. 2020. Unpacking the difference between digital transformation and IT-enabled organizational transformation. Journal of the Association for Information Systems.
  • Verdonck, M., Gailly, F. and de Cesare, S., 2020. Comprehending 3D and 4D ontology-driven conceptual models: An empirical study. Information Systems, p.101568.
  • Abou-Foul, M., Ruiz-Alba, J. and Soares, A., 2020. The impact of digitalization and servitization on the financial performance: An empirical analysis. Production Planning & Control.


  • Cuvero, M., Granados, M., Pilkington, A. and Evans, R.D. 2019. The Effects of Knowledge Spillovers and Accelerator Programmes on the Product Innovation of High-Tech Start-ups: A Multiple Case Study. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management.
  • Ennis, C and Barnett, N. 2019. Industry 4.0: Exploring Collaborative Supply Networks from the Perspective of Servitization of A Mature Public Transport System. Spring Servitization Conference 2019. Linkoping, Sweden 13 – 15 May 2019


  • Barnes, D. and Wu, C. 2018. Design of agile supply chains including analysing the trade-off between number of partners and reliability. International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology. 97 (9-12), pp. 3683-3700. doi:10.1007/s00170-018-2205-5 
  • Chang, J. and Rieple, A. 2018. Entrepreneurial decision making in a microcosm. Management Learning. 49 (4), pp. 471-497. doi:10.1177/1350507618777929 
  • Daim, T. and Pilkington, A. (ed.) 2018. Innovation Discovery: Network Analysis of Research and Invention Activity for Technology Management. London World Scientific Publishing. 
  • Ennis, C., Barnett, N., de Cesare, S., Lander, R. and Pilkington, A. 2018. A Conceptual Framework for Servitization in Industry 4.0: Distilling Directions for Future Research. The Advance Services Group Spring Servitization Conference 2018. Copenhagen Business School 14 – 16 May 2018 Aston University and Higher Education Academy. 
  • Kapetaniou, C., Rieple, A., Pilkington, A., Frandsen, T. and Pisano, P. 2018. Building the layers of a manufacturing taxonomy: how 3D printing is creating a new landscape of production eco-systems and competitive dynamics. Technological Forecasting & Social Change. 128, pp. 22-35. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2017.10.011 
  • Lee, Yang-im 2018. How the market driving approach utilizes a digital platform to enhance B2B and strengthen stakeholder relationships. 2018 Global Marketing Conference at Tokyo. Tokyo, Japan 26 – 29 Jul 2018 
  • Partridge, C., de Cesare, S., Mitchell, A. and Odell, J. 2018. Formalization of the Classification Pattern: Survey of Classification Modeling in Information Systems Engineering. Software & Systems Modeling. 17 (1), pp. 167-203. doi:10.1007/s10270-016-0521-5.


  • Dotsika, F. and Watkins, A. 2017. Identifying potentially disruptive trends by means of keyword network analysis. Technological Forecasting & Social Change. 119, pp. 114-127. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2017.03.020 
  • Eshraghian, F. and Hafezieh, N. 2017. Affordance Theory in Social Media Research: Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Literature. 25th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS 2017). Guimarães, Portugal 05 – 10 Jun 2017
  • Granados, M. and Rai, Sudhanshu 2017. Innovators intent: role of IT in facilitating innovative knowledge practices in social enterprises. 77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. Atlanta, Georgia, US 04 – 08 Aug 2017 Academy of Management. doi:10.5465/ambpp.2017.13995abstract 
  • Granados, M., Mohamed, S. and Hlupic, V. 2017. Knowledge Management activities in Social Enterprises: lessons for small and non-profit firms. Journal of Knowledge Management. 21 (2), pp. 376-396. doi:10.1108/JKM-01-2016-0026 
  • Lassila, S., Rieple, A. and Ennis, C. 2017. A model of service design elements to understand innovative service processes . The Design Management Academy: Research Perspectives on Creative Intersections. Hong Kong 07 – 09 Jun 2017 Design Management Academy. 
  • Lee, Yang-im and Trim, P.R.J. 2017. How the market driving approach can create brand value through a digital platform. 7th Global Innovation and Knowledge Academy. Lisbon School of Economics and Management (ISEG), Portugal 28 – 30 Jun 2017 
  • Rieple, A. and Kapetaniou, C. 2017. The role of business ecosystems in the building of disruptive innovations. Academy of Management: At the Interface. Atlanta, Ga 04 – 08 Aug 2017 Academy of Management.


  • Boateng, H., Dzandu, M. D., & Tang, H. 2016. Knowledge sharing employees in Ghanaian Industries: The role of transformational leadership style and communal organizational culture. Business Information Review, 33 (3), pp. 145-154.
  • de Cesare, S. and Partridge, C. 2016. BORO as a Foundation to Enterprise Ontology. Journal of Information Systems. 30 (2), pp. 83-112. doi:10.2308/isys-51428 
  • DeFillippi, R., Rieple, A. and Wikström, P. (ed.) 2016. International Perspectives on Business Innovation and Disruption in Design. Edward Elgar. 
  • Dzandu, M. D., Boateng, H., Agyemang, F. G. & Quansah, F. 2016. Social media adoption among university students: the role of gender, perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, 4(2), 124-136.
  • Pedraza-Acosta, I., Pilkington, A. and Barnes, D. 2016. Production systems and supplier selection: a multi-phase process model. Production Planning & Control: The Management of Operations. 27 (9), pp. 717-726. doi:10.1080/09537287.2016.1166278 
  • Pisano, P., Pironti, M. and Rieple, A. 2016. The changing role of the designer in new business models based around 3D printing technologies. in: Rieple, A., DeFillippi, R. and Wikström, P. (ed.) International Perspectives on Business Innovation and Disruption in Design Edward Elgar. pp. 60-64 
  • Rieple, A. and van de Broek, A.H. 2016. Distributed power and alignment in a digital design studio. 32nd EGOS Colloquium. Naples, Italy 07 – 09 Jul 2016 European Group for Organizational Studies. 
  • Wu, C. and Barnes, D. 2016. An integrated model for green partner selection and supply chain construction. Journal of Cleaner Production. 112 (3), pp. 2114-2132. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.02.023 
  • Wu, C. and Barnes, D. 2016. Partner selection for reverse logistics centres in green supply chains: a fuzzy artificial immune optimization approach. Production Planning and Control. 27 (16), pp. 1356-1372. doi:10.1080/09537287.2016.1221159 


  • Al Nasseri, A.A., Tucker, A. and De Cesare, S. 2015. Quantifying StockTwits semantic terms’ trading behavior in financial markets: An effective application of decision tree algorithms. Expert Systems with Applications. 42 (23), pp. 9192-9210. doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2015.08.008 
  • Dzandu, M. D., & Tang, Y. 2015. Beneath a learning management system: understanding human information interaction in information systems. 6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AFHE 2015), Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; 25-31 July 2015.
  • Eshraghian, F. and Hafezieh, N. 2015. Exploring the industry-level social media practices: toward a theory of association affordance. The 4th Innovation in Information Infrastructures (III) Workshop. University of Warwick (Coventry, UK) 13 – 15 Oct 2015 doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.2114.4564.
  • Eshraghian, F. and Harwood, S. 2015. Information product: how information consumers’ perception of ‘fitness for use’ can be affected. The 20th International Conference on Information Quality (ICIQ-2015). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, MA 24 Jul 2015.
  • Eshraghian, F. and Lloyd, A 2015. Opening the Blackbox of ‘Fitness for Use’: The Role of IT Implementation in Perceiving Information Quality. UK Academy for Information Systems. University of Oxford (Oxford, UK) 16 – 18 Mar 2015.
  • Eshraghian, F., Hafezieh, N. and Harwood, S. 2015. Information artefacts in practice: institutional context and self-awareness in enactment of collective affordances. British Academy of Management (BAM) Conference. University of Portsmouth (Portsmouth, UK) 08 – 10 Sep 2015.
  • Pisano, P., Pironti, M. and Rieple, A. 2015. Identify Innovative Business Models: Can Innovative Business Models Enable Players to React to Ongoing or Unpredictable Trends? Entrepreneurship Research Journal. 5 (3), pp. 181-199. doi:10.1515/erj-2014-0032.
  • Rieple, A. and Pisano, P. 2015. Business Models in a New Digital Culture: The Open Long Tail Model. Symphonya: Emerging Issues in Management. 2015 (2), pp. 75-88. doi:10.4468/2015.2.06rieple.pisano 
  • Verdonck, M., Gailly, F., De Cesare, S. and Poels, G. 2015. Ontology-Driven Conceptual Modeling: A Systematic Literature Mapping and Review. Applied Ontology. 10 (3-4), pp. 197-227. doi:10.3233/AO-150154.


  • Eshraghian, F., Lloyd, A. and Harwood, S. 2014. Biography of Data: A Societal Level Perspective On Data Quality. 19th International Conference on Information Quality (ICIQ-2014). Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China 01 – 03 Aug 2014 doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.5026.4802 
  • Heravi, B.R., Lycett, M. and de Cesare, S. 2014. Ontology-based standards development: Application of OntoStanD to ebXML business process specification schema. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems. 15 (3), pp. 275-297. doi:10.1016/j.accinf.2014.01.005 
  • Janes, S.H., Patrick, K. and Dotsika, F. 2014. Implementing a social intranet in a professional services environment through Web 2.0 technologies. The Learning Organization Journal. 21 (1), pp. 26-47. doi:10.1108/TLO-11-2012-0068 
  • Lee, Yang-im and Trim, P.R.J. 2014. Cyber security management: a governance, risk and compliance framework. Abingdon, Oxon Routledge.
  • Pisano, P., Pironti, M., Rieple, A. and Christodoulou, I. 2014. Business Model Adaptation to a New Digital Culture. Bohemia, E., Rieple, A., Liedtka, J. and Cooper, R. (ed.) 19th DMI International Design Management Research Conference Design Management in an Era of Disruption. London 02 – 04 Sep 2014 DMI. 
  • Wu, C. and Barnes, D. 2014. Partner selection in agile supply chains: a fuzzy intelligent approach. Production Planning & Control: The Management of Operations. 25 (10), pp. 821-839. doi:10.1080/09537287.2013.766037


  • Westminster Digital Business Symposium, 26 June 2019

  • 7 th International Workshop on Ontologies and Conceptual Modelling (co-located with 38th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling, Salvador, Brazil, 4-7 November 2019)

  • Digital Business Research Seminar Series (2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21 – upcoming)