Our research strategy is described by the three-plane strategic planning figure, shown in Figure B-1. Each plane describes a different broad focus of our research strategy: engineered systems are on the top, enabling core technology in the middle, and fundamental knowledge on the bottom. We have identified key investigators having expertise within each of these planes, and have identified research activities that they lead, in order to address the technological challenges we face. It is the constant interplay among people primarily focused on research activities occurring within these planes of endeavor that determines the success of present approaches and identifies the needs and opportunities to investigate new approaches.
Our ability to carry out a comprehensive strategy on multiple strategic levels has significantly improved over the first six years of the center. First, our investigators have expanded their own interests and expertise, to the point where they are now conducting research activities on multiple planes within our strategy. This has helped considerably in shaping our overall program, in achieving systems milestones, in developing testbeds, and in securing additional funds to support our strategy directly or to support research tightly coupled to our strategy. Second, our students, both graduate and undergraduate, are being trained to approach problems in computer integrated surgery from a broader perspective. They are now approaching technical problems by including knowledge spanning the range from fundamental science and engineering to the practical aspects of systems implementation. They are even looking beyond to the top level and seeing the clinical perspective, as well. Third, we have significantly extended our connections with clinical collaborators and industrial partners, who play key roles in identifying opportunities at the application level that motivate research at all levels. Finally, we now have several testbeds in deployment, which provide important avenues for testing and evaluation, creating new research opportunities at all levels in our strategic plan.