Digital Marketplaces and their value for the Materials Modelling Ecosystem

We just published an overview paper of the emergence of digital marketplaces in the area of science driven industries, with a particular focus on materials modelling. Complex science and technology requires a wide range of tools and expertise, and benefits from assembling a network of skills and capabilities in an open innovation approach. Digital marketplaces are becoming crucial in orchestrating R&D that works in a complex ecosystem, ensure that a wider range of stakeholders and involved and that industry can access emerging developments from academia more readily. The paper discusses the emergence of marketplaces and e-commerce in general and provides successful examples of marketplaces in R&D outsourcing, materials expertise, data and simulations. Emerging marketplaces in materials modelling based on the EU H2020 MarketPlace and VIMMP projects are introduced.

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Join the Goldbeck Consulting Team

We are looking for a Scientific Consultant to join our growing team and contribute to delivering a range of products, such as reports and studies around technical and business aspects of materials modelling and digitalisation across a wide range of industries. To a large extent our work is supported by European Horizon projects and hence the role is a great opportunity to collaborate with leading researchers from academia and industry throughout Europe.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

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Materials Modelling: here is to the next 10 years

To celebrate 10 years of Goldbeck Consulting, we are pleased to launch our new look website (with many thanks to Karen Arnott!). It has been an amazing journey together with many clients and collaborators: universities and tech transfer organisations, small and large software companies, market intelligence organisations, publishers, small and large materials and pharmaceuticals companies from around the world. We are grateful for the opportunities and proud to have supported a more integrated and impactful materials modelling ecosystem, contributing to

Over the last ten years, advances in hardware, physics and data-based models, software and workflow integration have meant that industrial use is no longer a question of ‘why’ but of ‘how’ materials modelling can be used to best effect, increasing R&D efficiency and effectiveness. We look forward to the next ten years of connecting science to engineering and academia to industry, from quantum computing to digital twins.

 

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Business Opportunities in Materials Modelling Software

Looking forward to the EMMC 2021 workshop on 2-4 March, for anyone interested in the software and business aspects there is an intriguing session on Industrial Requirements to Materials Modelling Software with a talk by Kurt Stobro (Stokbro Invest) on Business opportunities for materials science software. The talk promises to “analyze how we could successfully enter the very competitive market for commercial atomic-scale modelling software and discuss some of the opportunities that exist today for new entrants”. Having contributed a number of reports on the topic, e.g. on the Materials Modelling Software Market and Business models and sustainability for materials modelling software, we will be interested in the presentation and discussions in the session.

Software

Horizon 2020: New Centres of Excellence

The European Commission announced today an investment of €195 million via the Horizon 2020 programme in setting up and developing 13 new ‘centres of excellence’ in seven Member States, helping to boost research and innovation performance and inspiring the scientific community to develop new products and processes in tandem with leading scientific institutes from all over Europe.

We are pleased to see the new centres include ENSEMBLE3, which will focus on research excellence and innovation performance in the area of crystal growth-based technologies, novel functional materials with innovative electromagnetic properties, and applications in nanophotonics, optoelectronics and medicine.

Goldbeck Consulting supported ENSEMBLEin developing a Business Plan for the new centre and is looking forward to its fruitful implementation. Congratulations to Prof Dorota Pawlak and her team!

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The Nanotechnology Consortium legacy

I am always  happy to see the strong innovation legacy of the Nanotechnology Consortium that I ran from 2004-2010 grow in the Materials Studio releases. The leading edge tools that the Consortium progressed from an academic code to a commercial release include ONETEP (linear scaling DFT), QMERA (coupled electronic-atomistic modelling) as well as the new GULP (atomistic modelling incl reactive forcefield) and DFTB+ (fast, tight binding based DFT). All have been further enhanced and by now are clearly a core part of the Dassault Systemès discrete modelling package. Particularly pleasing is the recent release of the reaction Kinetic Monte Carlo module Kinetix for the general public, about 10 years after it became available to Nanotechnology Consortium members. As other Reaction Kinetic MC tools have moved from academia to a wider industry use (see e.g. Zacros) it is clear that the Nanotech Consortium and all companies that supported it were leading the innovation. I am curious to see where the next wave of Dassault Systemès innovation in materials modelling is going to come from, as sadly the time of consortia seems to be over.

Gerhard Goldbeck

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Business models and sustainability for materials modelling software

We recently published a White Paper on Materials Modelling Software Business. Key findings are:

  • A variety of business models are identified, mostly based on a hybrid software and services approach. Software sales as well as subscription licenses in combination with a range of services (from initial implementation to contract research) are the predominant revenue mix.
  • Services play a significant role, with income ranging from 20-80% in many cases. Target software to services ratio is in the range of 70-80 / 30-20. Services are not as scalable but a substantial amount seems required due to the complexity of the software and science.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) is still in its infancy in the materials modelling field. Ways of overcoming industry reservations with SaaS (e.g. security concerns) should be found since SaaS can greatly reduce software maintenance costs and provide a faster route for new features to get to users. Also, SaaS would help to reach small and medium enterprises.
  • New businesses developing services or SaaS based on proprietary software is somewhat hindered by the lack of business and licensing models between Software Owners and SaaS provider.
  • There is opportunity for Materials Modelling Marketplaces but also reservations in particular regarding customer relations.
  • Working closely with customers (via services and consortia etc.) is important to uncover why they are using your software and what it takes to retain them as well as to fund new developments.
  • Sustainability of software requires a change in education and better recognition of the persons in charge. Lifecycle of software requires substantial rethinking and a vision for the future as software’s age reaches decades.
  • It is important to engage with the academic community, find ways to make software engineering more exciting and bring in new standards to make software sustainable and maintainable.

The full White Paper is available via EMMC or Zenodo. The work was funded by the EU H2020 project EMMC-CSA, Grant Agreement No 723867.

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Success Stories and Economic Impact of Materials Modelling

In the context of my work with the European Materials Modelling Council, I recently launched a survey to gather success stories and information about the economic impact of materials modelling. The survey aims to build on my previous report which was mainly based on a literature review.The survey is inspired by studies that have been done by IDC in the area of High Performance Computing, in particular their Innovation and ROI Awards. The results of their study show that even without absolutely complete information, a clear picture of the impact emerges as more and more cases are gathered.

Already ten organisations have taken part, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the initial findings at an international cooperation workshop on multiscale materials modelling organised by the European Commission in September.

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Industry interactions of the electronic structure research community in Europe

I recently carried out a survey on behalf of the Psi-k network of the European ab initio research community and the CECAM-UK-JCMaxwell Node. The full report can be accessed here, and below is an overview.

The report explores the interactions of the academic Psi-k community with industry and is based on a semi-quantitative survey and interviews of network members. The evidence is analysed in the context of a prior report on the economic impact of molecular modelling [i] as well as of a recent study into Science-to-Business (S-2-B) collaborations [ii] in general.

Pertinent findings of the economic impact report were that the dominant electronic structure method, Density Functional Theory (DFT), is the most widely accepted ‘molecular modelling’ method and that it has become established in the electronics industry. Also of significance are the more than average growth in the number of patents which include DFT, and the growing interest in the potential of modelling in a wider circle of researchers in industry.

The S-2-B study [ii] emphasized the key role of the Principal Investigator (PI) in establishing and maintaining a satisfactory relationship, and the importance to industry of ‘soft’ objectives relative to outcomes with hard metrics.

All Psi-k board, working group and advisory group members, a total of about 120 people were invited to take part in the study, and 40 people responded, representing more than 400 scientists from 33 different institutions in 12 European countries. While it is acknowledged that this group will to some extent pre-select those with industry collaborations, the result that 90% of respondents work with industry is still significant. Main industry sectors of the collaborators are materials, electronics, automotive and aerospace and software. Density functional theory is almost always used in industry collaborations but classical and higher level theory also feature strongly.

It was noted that the Psi-k network represents some of the most widely used electronic structure codes in the world.  In fact, all electronic structure codes available in the leading commercial packages originate from Europe and are used at a few hundred industrial sites worldwide.

Psi-k groups that work with industry collaborate on average with 2-3 companies, typically on a long term basis. It is interesting that small groups are just as likely to collaborate with industry as larger ones, and also with roughly the same number of companies. There is however a correlation between the number of collaborating companies and the number of alumni in industry positions, which is consistent with the observation of the S-2-B study that the role of the PI and the depth of the relationship are the dominant factors.

Considering the different forms of interactions, informal interactions dominated, followed by collaborative projects, consultancies and training. Collaborative projects were reported by 75% of respondents with on average one such project per team per year. Nearly 60% of respondents had consultancy and contract research projects, with an average of one such engagement per research team every 1-2 years.  Training was least frequent but still more than 40% of respondents had training interactions in the last three years.

The main drivers for industry to collaborate are seen to be the expertise of the PI and access to new ideas and insights. As measures of success, new insights dominate followed by achieving breakthroughs in R&D. On the other hand, despite a clear ROI, cost saving is not generally the driver for collaborations. Impact was often achieved by unveiling mechanisms that could explain observations on a fundamental level and that had previously not been known or properly understood. The new insights thereby helped to overcome long standing misconceptions, leading to a completely new way of thinking and research direction. Similarly, electronic structure calculations helped to scrutinize certain concepts or aspects of engineering models. Less frequently so far seems to be the determination of input parameters for these models. However, the ability of simulations to screen a large number of systems, which would be prohibitively expensive if done experimentally, also plays an important role.

The above evidence and mechanisms of success indicate that the Psi-k network is largely in line with S-2-B collaborations in general, for example in terms of the relationships, importance of PI and the typical ‘soft’ measures of success.

On the other hand we can also see significant opportunities for further improvement. There is sincere interest as well as unmet need in industry.  On the one hand, the gap between industry requirements and what can be delivered by today’s theories and simulations is widely acknowledged. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that important and impactful topics can be addressed with current methods. However it takes a lot of time, effort and translation skills to identify and act upon these. Despite some activities by the network to further the exchange with industrial research, there is still too little common ground in terms of interactions, interests and language to develop the personal relationships that were found to be crucial for engagements between academics and industry.

However, we see evidence of successful mechanisms that can be built upon. These include utilising multiscale modelling approaches as not only a scientific endeavour but also as an opportunity to build a bridge in terms of communication and relationships. Also, relationships with industry at the level of Ph.D. training seems to be an effective mechanisms not only to train scientists with the relevant skills and understanding but also to build long term relationships between the academic centres and industry. Similarly, centres of excellence that are by their nature set up with industry involvement provide visibility and help to build relationships, although with the proviso [ii] that the single investigator can be the critical determinant.


[i] Goldbeck, G. The economic impact of molecular modelling. Goldbeck Consulting Limited, Available via http://gerhardgoldbeck.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/the-economic-impact-of-molecular-modelling-of-chemicals-and-materials/ (2012).

[ii] Boehm, D. N. & Hogan, T. Science-to-Business collaborations: A science-to-business marketing perspective on scientific knowledge commercialization. Industrial Marketing Management 42, 564–579 (2013).