Hughes, Richard Kenneth

Hughes,  Richard Kenneth
Start date:
September 2023
Research Topic:
Reconstructing knowledge management: A radical modernisation of maintenance and capital expenditure risk modelling for a North Wales Hydro Power Station
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Clair Doloriert and Dr Sara Closs-Davies
Supervising school:
Bangor Business School,
Primary funding source:
External Sponsor:
First Hydro, ENGIE UK

Title: Reconstructing knowledge management: A radical modernisation of maintenance and capital expenditure risk modelling for a North Wales Hydro Power Station.

Reflections on the title, aims and purpose of the research:

This research comes at a critical time where resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure is required to meet the Welsh governments Net Zero 2050 goal (Welsh Government, 2022) and to address the current climate crisis (United Nations, 2023). First Hydro (FH) provides vital support through its Dinorwig and Ffestiniog hydroelectricity plants during periods of energy instability within the national grid when wind speed fluctuation reduces output of windfarms (ENGIE, 2023).
In times of international political and uncertainty/instability creating robust risk modelling for capital expenditure is key for business sustainability and maximisation of efficient resource use (KPMG, 2022).
Critical energy infrastructure is facing threats from cyber-attacks by external actors (Allianz, 2016). In 2023 cyber risks rank at the top of global risk with the impact costing estimated to be around $1trn a year (Allianz, 2023).
Developing and modernising capital expenditure risk modelling through the creation of robust and resilient knowledge management systems will support FH‘s sustainability strategy and future proof/optimise its operations in order to facilitate the Welsh Governments Net Zero 2050 goals.

An overview of some key research literature relevant to the study:

Tightly controlled cultures have a significant negative impact on individuals’ KM process engagement within organisations, whereas job/results-oriented cultures have a positive impact. Transitioning towards the latter cultures will improve employee morale and attrition rates. Non-coercive management is also vital for the creation of an environment where employees feel free to collaborate and knowledge share (Ling-hsing & Lin, 2015). Modern leaders utilise their position to build trust and knowledge sharing into the culture of organisations, using this foundation to bolster achievement of strategic goals with KM processes (Inkinen, 2016).
Existing literature comments on the value of utilising tacit and explicit knowledge, emphasising the lack of effective conversion of tacit knowledge into a sustainable business resource (Isworowati, et al., 2019; Asrar-ul-Haq & Anwar, 2016; Hill, 2021; Smith, 2001). Smith, (2001) suggests assigning a measurable value to knowledge within organisations for use within analytical tools, she also identifies human friction as a restrictive force on knowledge sharing and comments how the value of knowledge significantly increases when it it shared effectively. Boh, (2007) challenges the premise by suggesting implementing processes to encourage certain knowledge sharing can be more effective than trying to codify all implicit knowledge into centralised knowledge hubs. Even with challenges organisations have taken strides to transfer knowledge from people to documents, extracting information to avoid reliance on its developers (Smith, 2001). Technology has created a platform to effectively codify knowledge, thus improving management and application of knowledge through workflow automation (Inkinen, 2016 , as cited in Nonaka and Takeuchi,1995; Alavi and Leidner, 2001).
Knowledge management and sharing are important future areas for research, organisational nuances need to be accounted for and a tailored approach taken to meet specific requirements of new KM systems, organisations with outdated knowledge management systems also struggle to retain tacit knowledge when losing experienced personnel (Asrar-ul-Haq & Anwar, 2016).
Machado, et al., (2021), as cited in (Romme et al., 2015) highlight a disparity in researcher background, with the vast majority of research being carried out solely by scholars with a small percentage of all research being collaborative alongside practitioners. The research analysis uncovered links between KM, digital transformation and industry 4.0 opening up new potential research avenues.
Following their systhesis of industry 4.0 literature Abubakar, et al., (2017) concluded IT-support is beneficial for knowledge creation and subsequent improvements in organisational performance. They discuss the how current literature gives confidence in knowledge creation processes adding value to an organisation if implemented.
Through systematic literature review of KM in the context of sustainability Martins, et al., (2019) identified there was a lack of quantitative and action research, with emphasis on the lack of empirical data available from practical interventions. They comment if this research gap isn’t addressed it could have a negative impact the evolution of KM practices.
Two research papers by Xu, et al., (2020) and Shaktawat & Vadhera, (2021) discussed hydro power but their focus was on the construction not operational phase of the facility lifecycles.

Proposals for developing the design and methods of the study:

Following a comprehensive literature review of extant empirical and conceptual studies within the relevant areas of KM, a mixed method approach will be adopted whilst the researcher is embedded within the organisation, this approach addresses highlighted research gaps. Initially semi-structured interviews and focus groups will be conducted alongside the onboarding process at FH to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances within the complex operating environment and culture at FH, thus contributing to development of the research question and methodological approach. Quantitative research instruments will be used to analyse data created during codification following the development of new KM processes. Risk modelling will be developed utilising relevant and resourced IT systems, it will be tested prior to live implementation to ensure it is fit for purpose. Continual discussion and collaboration with FH will be required during the project, as new KM systems will require resource budgeting.

A description of potential outcomes of the project for understanding, knowledge, policy and practice:

Development and implementation of a new future proof KM system and risk modelling capability, which will influence business decision-making and improve resilience, sustainability, cyber security, quality and health and safety performance.
Develop new knowledge utilising a collaborative mixed methods approach between academia and industry in an area lacking research.
Contribute towards internal policy development based on research outcomes.
Set a precedent for the industry to follow, and strategy to communicate the outputs of the research so other hydro plants/organisations can utilise the created knowledge to contribute to meeting national/international sustainability and climate goals.
Attending/organising networking events/conferences to share research progress with businesses and stakeholders, highlighting the value and impact of collaborative projects to a broad audience.