Digital Marketplaces and their value for the Materials Modelling Ecosystem
Digital marketplaces are online platforms that support and streamline transactions between sellers and buyers of products and services. We provide some historical insights into their development, types of marketplaces and their business models as a background to elaborating current and emerging digital marketplaces that serve science and engineering R&D in general, and materials in particular.
As markets evolved from physical to e-commerce consumers moved from physically attending a market to purchasing a variety of goods and services online. Noticeably, there is a trend towards one-stop-shops where customers can purchase goods from different providers but settle their bill in a single transaction. Often, customers wish to borrow or gain access to tangible or intangible goods, such as cars, dwellings, music, movies, cloud computing, etc. without owning them.
Digital marketplaces can enable collaboration between two parties, orchestrate an overarching business environment to harmonise business models of different providers, permit creation of new products and services, and match consumers with suitable providers and vice versa. They may serve a particular community and offer bespoke products and services to them, or concentrate on generalised offerings and function like an online department store.
In the area of R&D, marketplaces have been developing from directories of experts and potential suppliers of R&D goods and services to digital marketplaces. Platforms for experts and information (e.g., patents) have been the first to develop as marketplaces. In the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences sector, the wide use of outsourcing in R&D has been a driver for the growth of digital marketplaces. In the materials sector, e-commerce has been developing in the field of materials supplies, which has fed into the growth of a marketplace built around choosing materials based on their properties. In the field of additive manufacturing and engineering in general, marketplaces have emerged that connect customers requiring parts manufacturing with potential ‘makers’. In simulations, a growing number of platforms offer Simulation as a Service provisions to the materials and engineering sector.
Finally, we discuss the emergence of materials modelling marketplaces in the US and Europe, in particular MarketPlace and VIMMP. Digital marketplaces are seen as a new avenue for materials modelling and its ecosystem of people, tools, data and processes/workflows to reach a wider customer base. Some marketplace type businesses have arisen from online modelling platforms that enable easy integration modelling tools.