The 4th EMMC International Workshop 2023 marks the anticipated return to an onsite event back in Vienna, Austria.
Around a hundred participants from 19 countries met at the TU Wien Main Building on Karlsplatz from 26 to 28 April to connect with each other and share experiences across disciplines. Preceded by successful workshops onsite in 2017 and 2019, and an online version in 2021 due to the pandemic, this year’s programme comprised inspiring talks, engaging discussions, international exhibitions, and exciting social events.
This year’s theme, Materials and Digitalisation: the Backbone of the Green Transition, assembled experts from RTD, industry, academia and policy. The outcome of the workshop will contribute to an updated EMMC Roadmap for Materials Modelling and Digitalisation of the Materials Sciences. The Roadmap identifies gaps and gives direction for achieving an agile European materials industry and maximising the impact of digital materials sciences based on the knowledge accumulated over years.
In addition to topics align with the five focus areas of the EMMC (Model Development, Digitalisation and Interoperability, Software, Impact on Industry and Policy) EMMC 2023 featured a session dedicated to the integration of modelling and characterisation. Participants discussed recent challenges and the need to accelerate materials design and optimisation to meet complex societal and industry demands. The importance of accessible tools, interoperability, and collaborations across communities, stakeholders and initiatives was stressed by several participants.
The workshop started off with a keynote speech on innovation in green and digital transformation with a focus on the European Automotive Industry. Digitalisation enables data sharing among all stakeholders. It thus contributes to sustainable sourcing of raw materials, reduce CO2 emissions and recycling materials.
Regarding the model development and software applications, speakers touched upon different methodologies of computer-accelerated materials design including physics-based and data-based approaches. Delegates heard about the latest advances in machine learning applications to materials sciences including quantification of uncertainties and deriving information from noise in datasets. Open platforms and tools still have a lot of untapped potential to facilitate collaboration in materials science and related fields.
Numerous scientific and EU projects were presented and displayed as posters at the venue. Coordinators of five new projects within the Horizon Europe’s programme on advanced materials modelling and characterisation discussed the challenges as well as opportunities from their respective points of view. The plenary and session on Policy further provided an overview of the EU Strategy for sustainability and circularity. Follow-up activities and policy agenda were presented for an in-depth understanding of initiatives influencing the research and innovation programmes.
EMMC 2023 Plenary Talks
The first keynote speech was on innovation in green and digital transformation by Luis de Prada (EUCAR, BE). The European automotive industry faces many challenges but also opportunities to become sustainable. EUCAR is the umbrella to many EU efforts to ensure sustainability from the sourcing of raw materials, through building a car, to lowering the carbon footprint when manufacturing and running a car, and finally, to recycling materials at the end of its life cycle. A great enabler to accomplish all this was the advent of digital transformation where digitalised data can be shared more readily amongst all stakeholders. The presentation also illustrated the interrelation and collaboration between European partners, European technology platforms and the EMMC.
Hermann Autenrieth (Robert Bosch GmbH, DE) introduced three use cases applying digital twins in materials modelling for metal manufacturing. The talk provided a pertinent industrial application that combined all techniques discussed in the EMMC 2023 workshop, namely physics-based modelling, data-based modelling, characterisation data and ontologies. It was shown how all of these combine in a synergistic way to create a digital twin with the potential to be an essential part of product development, contributing to more tailored outcomes.
Day two’s plenary talks revolved around acceleration through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Aron Walsh (Imperial College London, UK) gave a highly educational talk on different approaches and methods to computer-accelerated materials design.
Gareth Conduit (University of Cambridge and Intellegens, UK) elaborated on how to deal with uncertainties and recounted the discovery of hidden information in noise for the design of ‘greener’ concrete, inspired by the exposed aggregate concrete walls of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.
On the last day, Alejandro Strachan (Purdue University, US) gave an update on the widely used NanoHUB, giving insights about making modelling tools easily accessible and usable, especially for students. Training a large enough and skilled future workforce in modelling and digital tools is crucial for the industrial transformations across industries.
Esther Hurtós (EURECAT, ES) provided an overview of recent developments in the EU policy landscape on research. In the associated policy session, representatives from the European Commission, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK), the Advanced Materials Initiative (AMI2030) and EMMC gave insights into national and European perspectives on policy development and associated strategic agendas and roadmaps.
Panel Discussion: Materials and Digitalisation as the Backbone of the Green Transition
The Panel Discussion touched upon the challenges and prospects of research. It was moderated by Philippe Jacques, Managing Director of the Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative (EMIRI, BE) and brought together experts and professionals from the scientific community and industry.
The main challenges the panelists identified are the pressing need to accelerate change in education and the accessibility and use of modern tools. There is an underlying necessity to adopt new approaches to working and breaking barriers to applying new tools. Especially non-IT specialists would benefit from easy access to simulation tools. Platforms that meet the requirements for experimentalists need to be created and promoted. Sharing data, promoting FAIR principles and rendering computational methods more efficient and open are important aspects.
Another challenge mentioned is the consideration of long-term benefits when implementing technologies and systems. Here, the focus is again placed on education, alongside translation. Scientists are inclined to dive into the research focusing on single puzzle pieces but keeping the whole picture in mind is also crucial. A counter approach is promoting a common language between scientists and data to enable mutual understanding also between real life problems and simulations. Interdisciplinary communication and collaboration are highly encouraged. There is also the need to address policy and decision makers and raise awareness of the importance and complexity of simulation science.
The recyclability and sustainability of materials was also discussed. The benefits and value creation should be checked regularly. Furthermore, the role of modeling techniques and technological progress needs to be defined, including expectation management of what they can achieve. As Walsh also mentioned in his talk, machine learning aims to solve problems that standard methods cannot. However, it contributes to improvement but does not always provide the ultimate solution.
Last but not least, the future of research raised thought-provoking discussions. Funding levels for software and digital infrastructure lie very much below those for physical infrastructure. Furthermore, human-machine interaction and its integration into workflows, such as automation in research to increase consistency and efficiency of data, was also remarked. Tools for autonomous research and the incorporation of data from multiple fields could facilitate hypotheses in academia, while combining simulation and experiments into one platform would encourage dynamic interaction.
Founded in 2014, the EMMC has undertaken numerous consultation and networking actions with representatives of all stakeholders including material modellers, data scientists, software owners, translators and manufacturers in Europe. As a non-profit association based in Belgium since 2019, EMMC ASBL (association sans but lucrative) provides a platform where members and participants can actively contribute to more agile and sustainable development of materials, processes and products.
The EMMC International Workshop takes place every two years since 2017. The upcoming workshop is planned for 2025. The EMMC has a broad online presence. To stay tuned for more updates on news and events, see: