The Best Time to Form a Materials Informatics Strategy Is Now

Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Analyst

The time is now to form a materials informatics (MI) strategy. MI sits at the center of materials innovation, and because of its datacentric nature, whoever invests in it first will gain significant advantage after overcoming the steep learning curve.

Back in January we introduced three ways to form a MI strategy. As Lux has tracked the progress in the MI space, we have seen three clear strategies for companies to engage. These include working with a startup, joining a consortium, and starting an internal MI initiative. We concluded that the consortium approach represents the most data-efficient way of leveraging materials informatics (see our recent report and webinar for more information).

More recently, Lux co-organized a conference on the topic of MI with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD) at Northwestern University in Chicago. NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and is the lead government agency promoting MI in the United States through the Materials Genome Initiative, a multi-agency initiative that aims to half the material development cycle time through computational and experimental tools and digital data. CHiMaD is a center of excellence funded by NIST through the MGI, and it is developing state-of-the-art software technologies and infrastructures for materials informatics. This event was the first materials informatics conference to take place with an explicit goal of bridging academic progress with industrial applications, and it left us with many takeaways on where the MI space is headed.

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Co-organizers of the Conference. Including the director of the US materials genome initiative, the leadership of CHiMaD, and our analyst Xiao Zhong (center).

A recurring theme of discussion is how to balance MI’s disruptive potential with data challenges. While there are still some arguments about which approach to MI strategy development is best, the consensus is that whether you are a materials developer or a user of materials innovations, you need to form a MI strategy now, as early adopters have already implemented their strategies, and we expect this trend to continue.

Another notable takeaway regarding materials innovation, is that practical applications of MI are now possible. Through the combination of both government and industrial initiatives to develop new MI tools and software infrastructure, MI has now reached a point where practical applications can take place.

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Xiao Zhong presenting on how to form a materials informatics strategy.
 

While we at Lux do acknowledge that there are some risks involved in implementing materials informatics, especially from a data security stand point if an open collaboration is pursued, we believe that the risk of being left behind and not engaging is even greater. Based on our conversations with more than 50 players active or considering participation in the space, companies seem to have a variety of cultures toward the acceptance/rejection of materials informatics.

For now, regardless of which specific materials informatics strategy could work best, the key takeaway for any company involved in the materials value chain is the need to overcome any internal resistance and move toward a concrete plan for how to set up a materials informatics strategy.

Further Reading:

- The time is now to form a materials informatics strategy, and other key takeaways from the Materials Informatics for Industry conference (Members Only)
-3 Ways to Form a Materials Informatics Strategy
-How to Form a Materials Informatics Strategy” (Available to Lux Members Only)
-On Demand Webinar: “Playing to Win: Strategies for Accelerating Materials Innovation in Turbulent Times” 
-On Demand Webinar: “How and Why You Should Form a Materials Informatics Strategy(Members Only)

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