Support a new technical community

Materials World magazine
27 Sep 2019

Northumbria University Senior Lecturer, Sergio Gonzalez Sanchez, calls for support to start up a new Materials Informatics technical community, to bring together academics and industrialists in materials across the UK.

My research group is focused on the experimental discovery of new metallic materials and the processing-structure-property relationship. Using rapid solidification techniques enables us to develop metallic alloys with tuned performance for multiple potential applications.

The experimental process to discover new materials, however, is often time-consuming since it is mostly based on chemical intuition as well as a degree of serendipity.

The use of computational simulation has been beneficial as a guide for new materials discovery, but there are also challenges involved in this approach. For example, the inherent complexity and increasing number of parameters required – for instance, humidity or temperature can have an effect that was not taken into account – makes artificial intelligence (AI) a useful tool to address these challenges.

Although the UK has a strong global position in this area, initiatives developed some time ago in the USA, such as the Genome Initiative, and more recently in China, clearly show that we are starting to be left behind in this important area of research. For this reason, steps have to be taken to unify knowledge across the UK and to make the most of the talent and facilities through creating a technical community.

Currently, the UK has some important research groups working on artificial intelligence. For example, the Thomas Young Centre in London consists of research groups from Imperial College, King’s College, Queen Mary University London, University College London, and the CFI Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, with UK funding partners from the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford.

However, these are local networks in the south-east focused on using computing to solve broad physical problems, rather than on the discovery of new materials through validation with experimental data. Therefore, the creation of an IOM3 Technical Community focused on using AI to discover new materials that could unite talent and expertise from all interested universities and companies across the UK is needed.

One of the roles for this community will be the organisation of conferences and events to promote communication between academics and industrialists, not only from England, but also from Ireland, Wales and Scotland, to provide a favourable place for knowledge to permeate at all levels and develop the industrial fabric of the country.

Having a place where industrialists, even from small businesses located at relatively remote areas, can access the latest knowledge on AI, will help to grow their businesses and ultimately foster greater economic competitiveness in the UK. This will be especially relevant after Brexit, where maximising the talent and resources available through optimum coordination will be imperative. In this regard, the new Technical Community will have international connections through organisation of international conferences and events.

This will be an open place where academics and industrialists working on theory and experiments can shape the future of this community to reflect the constantly changing needs of industries and to facilitate the UK to efficiently enter into Industry 4.0.

For more information and to express your interest in supporting the creation of a new IOM3 Technical Community on Materials Informatics, please contact Sergio at