Past projects


Meraka Institute

Mark van Harmelen was directly appointed by the South African Cabinet to lead a senior-level team to align government, industry and educational stakeholders, and to formulate the initial shape of and strategy for the Meraka Institute. The Institute was subsequently established in 2005.


Strategic consultancy for Mimas, A JISC National Data Centre, examining the future prospects for Jorum, an elearning specific repository. Recommended the establishment of an open access service, subsequently established as JorumOpen.


Mark has also performed strategic work for a variety of clients, including research strategy for National/Panasonic (Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd), and implementation strategy for diverse multinationals.

Audit, change management, education


We have performed business process and content audits for a variety of multinational clients. Our largest success to date has been saving a client US$24M in direct costs (mid 90s value) together with retention of a significant market share.

Technical transformation and change management

We design and manage change in specialist technical areas. This varies from client adoption of specific design methods, e.g. use of UML in the design and implementation cycle, to the use of a particular implementation technologies technology across an entire organisation.

For example, we advised on the transformation of an EDS-owned company’s implementation process, achieving a transformation from FORTRAN and assembly language to object oriented model-based design and implementation in C++.

Education and training

We teach advanced Computer Science courses at MSc level in the University of Manchester’s top-rated School of Computer Science.

We also occasionally provide educational services for commercial clients. We have delivery capacity in diverse topics spanning design, operating systems and implementation technologies.

Technical and applied research

JISC personalisation projects survey, synthesis and analysis

In partnership with Sero Ltd, a comissioned survey, synthesis and  analysis of the results of about 35  JISC-funded personalisation projects, with recommendations to JISC for future development and roll-out of personalisation technologies. The resultant web site will be hosted by JISC


The FishDelish project is a partnership between the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science, the FishBase Information and Research Group Inc (FIN) a not-for-profit NGO, and Hedtek. The project will modernise the technologies underlying FIN’s species-specific fish and sealife data holdings.

FIN is the publisher of Fishbase, both as a web service (with 400M hitws per annum) and as a desktop database application. FishBase contains information on approximately 31,500 fish and sealife species. This species data includes 279,900 common names, 49,200 pictures, and 43,800 references.

The FishBase Project will republish significant parts of FishBase’s data as linked data; together we plan to place more than 100M triples on the Web. We will also provide

  • browser-based interfaces that mash up FishBase data with other linked data sources;
  • novel mechanisms to easily expose, via a self-publishing mechanism, individuals’ and organisations’ field observations and specimen holdings, automatically mashing-up this data with species-specific data drawn from our and others’ triples stores.
  • a port of a sample of FishBase’s educational resources on the use FishBase in Ichthyology, repurposing these materials to cover the use of SPARQL and third-party tools that are seamlessly integrated into a ‘live document’-based SPARQL tutorial system.

See the project blog.

Main technologies: Linked Data, triple stores, Ruby-on-Rails,extensions toHedtek’s iDoc, and related Web technologies

Hedtek’s Personal Learning Environment

Personal Learning Environment (PLE) development has been suspended for the mean time, pending transfer of the version 2 code base to Hedtek.

The existing (version 1) PLE provides an integrated set of facilities to support formal and informal learning. The system provides an integrated social networking service with profiles, groups, blogs, fora, learning spaces, and elementary assessment facilities.

Spaces, which are unique to the PLE, are multi-media multi-user spaces which can be used by learners to construct artefacts that are useful in the learning process. Spaces are sufficiently flexible in use to allow users to use them in a wide variety of ways. As such they incorporate the idea of users subverting their use to satisfy their own learning needs.


ourWikiBooks was a University of Manchester project that Hedtek managed on behalf of the University.  The project team investigated student authorship of textbook material: “ourWikiBooks will undertake co-development, with teachers and GCSE and A-level students, of a new digital collection of key concerns and knowledge in computing education.” As part of this we will also be concerned with continuing professional development for teachers of Information Technology.

See the project blog.

The project is led by the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science and funded by JISC.

Main technologies: MediaWiki and open source publishing technology developed by the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science.

MOSAIC architecture

A short extension to the MOSAIC Project, describing how the MOSAIC search engine might be implemented at either an institutional or a national scale. The major recommendation is an agile approach that includes use of Hadoop with a customised Lucene to produce a highly performant distributed search engine deployable within one or a group of institutions.

doop – an Augmented reality mobile system

A little hack with Spotlight Kid (about four days work in total) to create an augmented reality iPhone app that is mashed up with Twitter and Google myMaps. For demonstration at ALT-C 2009.


Extensions for the Information Environment: Design and construction of the Manchester Personal Learning Environment, mPLE, and treatment of library catalogue records as social objects; a la Flickr images, both in mPLE and on the Web.

mPLE announcement, demonstration and trial use: ALT-C 2009.

The social objects from EIE are being used as the search results in the Mosaic demonstrator. See above.

Main technologies: PHP, Flex, mySQL

Client: JISC


Enabling search of library catalogues and reading lists that is personalised and explorable on the basis of personal context and library loan data that is aggregated from participating libraries.

Public demonstrator, personalised search engine: September 2009, see also this post.

Main technologies: Java, Solr

Client: JISC via Sero Ltd


Improving the Copac user experience:
The project includes building a structured (FRBRised) database of the 32 million library catalogue records in Copac, creation of an prototype interface for Copac to provide a better user experience when searching and using search results, and assessing the usability of the interface in user trials.

Main technologies: Python, Solr, mySQL

Client: Mimas


The TILE (Towards Implementation of Library 2.0 and the E-Framework) Project investigated the implementation of library services based on Web 2.0, their professional implications and their institutional impacts.

The project recommended leveraging aggregated library use data to provide search personalisation facilities for learners, teachers and researchers, and proposed an architectural approach at a national scale.

With Sero Ltd, PsyDev Ltd, and Ken Chad Consulting.


The DPIE (Developing Personalisation for the Information Environment) Project investigated ways of increasing the usability and utility of the JISC Information Environment (IE) and some of its constituent services. The project was particularly concerned with two topics, personalisation for users of IE services, and integration of Web 2.0 services into the IE.

The architectural approach formulated during the project is being implemented in the Extensions to the Information Environment Project. This architecture was prototyped during the DPIE Project.


Analysis and Synthesis of Reference Model Projects One major output produced as a result of our contribution to this project was a synthesis of design methods. This continues in the tradition of model-based design described in Object Modeling and User Interface Design, a book edited by Mark van Harmelen.

The Manchester PLE/VLE project

A project in conjunction with the University of Manchester. The project predated the current PLE movement, and developed a framework for central server and personal computer based learning support.

The virtual file system developed in the project won an award for code quality, and subsequently became the core of the University of Oxford’s ASK repository.

Pure research

Web 2.0 in Higher Education

Web 2.0 Content Sharing for Learning in Higher Education, by Tom Franklin and Mark van Harmelen, was an early influential report on the use of Web 2.0 in higher education in the UK. The report was later broadened to international coverage and refined for the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education.

Education and training

Introduction to Software Engineering

Development and presentation of a new Advanced MSc level course for the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science. This course will cover topics in agile software development with an added emphasis on  useful descriptions of system structure. An underlying rationale is to use experiential learning to teach teamwork skills, essential for both software engineering practice and for use during our students’ further learning activities.

Interactive System Design

Another MSc level course, covering the design cycle from client and user interaction, trough to hands-on paper and macine-based prototyping.

Various industrial training courses

Ranging from interactive system design to technical subjects like the Unified Modeling Language (UML).

Note: Projects listed here are by Hedtek Ltd and its predecessors:

  • Personal Learning Environments Ltd (same company, different name)
  • Mark van Harmelen (Hedtek’s director) as an independent consultant.