Our friends at Econolyst have just launched their 2014 Big 3D printing survey. This is the second annual survey that they’ve run. Last year they had over 3,000 responses and were able to get some great insights from that data. So if you’re a current user of 3D printers or 3D printing services then they’d like you to help make this year’s survey even better.
Simon Ford was Bit by Bit’s representative at a workshop “Leveraging Technological Change: The Role of Business Models and Ecosystems” in London yesterday. Here he reports on the workshop.
Organised as a collaboration between UCL and École Polytechnique by the formidable duo of Prof. Thierry Rayna and Ludmila Striukova, the workshop was an Anglo-French affair, featuring academics working in both countries on aspects of the digital economy.
In his opening keynote, Prof. Pierre-Jean Benghozi from École Polytechnique provided an overview of how the creative industries and the Internet are changing. This reporter found Prof. Benghovis’s comments about the industry’s dynamics to be most illuminating. He highlighted four dynamics: (1) the economy of luxury and low cost, and the widening gap between high end and mass market; (2) the platform economy, in which aggregation of content, as well as niches and market segments is occurring; (3) an economy of branding, whereby brands are continuing to become more important and companies aim to get closer to consumers in order to develop long-term customer control, and (4) the economy of free in its many forms.
The day’s second keynote came from Prof. Thierry Rayna. As another academic investigating 3D printing, his presentation explored a potential scenario in the future in which prosumers self-organise into their own value chains as they have the ability to design, distribute and manufacture goods. In such a future, what would be the role for corporations? Prof. Rayna suggested that they would retain a role: as gatekeepers.
In the first session of the day, Nicola Searle from the IPO, Rémi Maniak from Telecom ParisTech, and David Wong from the Big Innovation Centre, gave presentations on the role of business models and ecosystems. Drawing on research conducted before joining the IPO, Nicola described how IP had been a secondary influence in the business model decisions made by six Scottish organisations. Of greater importance had been the ability to adapt to the changing environment.
Rémi Maniak followed this by explaining the importance of multi-project lineage for organisations trying to create new business ecosystems. His premise was based on the need for organisations to invest strategically in order to accummulate experience and build assets. While doing so can often bring significant short-term losses, this investment is vital in the long-term if the organisation is to acquire new capabilities and competences.
Taking the unenviable task of speaking before lunch, David Wong provided a summary of what he considers to be the seven intangible drivers of value creation: (1) firm strategy and positioning; (2) radical innovation and first mover advantage; (3) intangible resources and competencies; (4) organisational ambidexterity; (5) network effects and externalities; (6) transaction costs efficiency, and (7) relational optimality.
The after-lunch session shifted towards industry cases, with presentations on innovation in video games (Myriam Davidovici-Nora from Telecom ParisTech) , 3D printing (that was us), and book publishing (Elisa Salvador from École Polytechnique). Your correspondent finds it fascinating that video games has become the largest part of the creative industries by revenue ($66bn in 2013 across all formats) but that it continues to exist at the margins of mainstream culture. Myriam’s presentation took us through some of the key innovations in the video game industry and she described the growing trend towards the creation of two types of games. At one end there are the big budget, highly cinematic and immersive games, while at the other there are the short session games that require much shorter development times and money.
Discussing the book publishing disruption by ebooks, Elisa Salvador described how publishers remain behind the evolutionary process. While Amazon pioneered the e-reader with the Kindle, traditional book publishers have appeared content to allow Amazon and other technology companies to continue to drive the growth of this industry rather than attempt to take a leadership position themselves.
The third session of the day was around the rise of new stakeholders. Prof. John Darlington from Imperial College kicked off the session with a number of proposals for consumer-side Internet structures. He agreed with Tim Berners-Lee that the Internet had ceased to operate in the best interests of the public and that a ‘Bill of Rights’ may be required to protect Internet users. He showed a demonstration of a demand-side trading system whereby online customers could pool their demand in order to get better deals on their shopping. He commented that the system had been shown to one online retailer, who responded by suggesting that it would put them out of business.
Julie Bastianutti from Lille 1 University shared the results of a study into social search engines. Broadly there are three types of social search engines: (1) charity search engines, which donate a percentage of their advertising revenues to certain charities; (2) ecological search enginers, which have lower energy consumption, and (3) ethical search engines, which do not list certain types of websites. The challenge facing social search engines is that they are reliant on the technology from traditional search engine companies (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) and that they are not always willing to work together even when it may appear advantageous.
Joe Cox from the University of Portsmouth provided the last presentation of the afternoon, talking about another project funded by NEMODE, the VOLCROWE project, which like Bit by Bit began last autumn. The project will be investigating the economics of crowdsourcing in not-for-profits where there are no monetised rewards. They’re doing this through studying Zooniverse, an umbrella organisation of citizen science projects, exploring how and why users engage, along with what non-monetary incentives can be used to improve engagement.
At the end of the conference Prof. Benghozi suggested that there might be a follow-up workshop later in the year in Paris, while Thierry and Mila announced that they are guest editors for a special issue of the International Journal of Technology Management on the workshop topic. The deadline for the special issue is 31st October.
Along with undergraduate teaching, we also have an MPhil course in Industrial Systems, Manufacturing and Management here at the Institute for Manufacturing. As part of their studies, participants on the MPhil complete an 18 week research dissertation. The Bit by Bit team has just recruited four of these students to help our investigations into 3D printing, with their work running from April to August this year.
The students will be looking at the emergence and adoption of 3D printing. Each will be doing so in a specific application domain:
- Dental implants
- Snow sports
- Luxury goods
- Bioprinting tissues and organs
Studies of industrial and technological emergence point to the importance of niches in providing the habitats in which novel technologies can begin to be commercialised, demonstrating their capabilities before wider market adoption. The first three of these domains are niches where 3D printing may find entry points.
The first domains, dental implants, is the most mature. A number of companies including 3D Systems, EnvisionTEC, EOS and Stratasys produce specialist 3D printers for the manufacture of dental implants. These systems have been used by orthodontists and dental laboratories for a few years now. The dissertation will seek to explore to what degree the introduction of 3D printing has caused industry reconfiguration.
Snow sports have traditionally been an area in which there has been a high degree of user innovation and experimentation around new materials and manufacturing processes. While skis and snowboards may not appear immediately attractive applications for 3D printing, there are a range of other novel applications of 3D printing emerging in this space, such as the Edinburgh start-up ALPrint offering customised ski boot insoles.
The high end of the market often provides scope for the introduction of new products. Has this been the case for 3D printing in the luxury goods market? This is an interesting question to explore because luxury goods are often defined by their rarity and the craftsmanship that has gone into the product. When a design can be reproduced at the touch of a button, how does that affect the perception of a luxury good? If the Hoptroff No. 10 pocket watch is any indication then it will still be able to attract a premium price.
Finally, furthest from market is the bioprinting of tissues and organs. The hope that one day in the not too distant future we might be able to replace our defective body parts with new ones. This research will map the evolution of bioprinting up to the present day.
We’d like to hear from you if you’re currently working in one of these domains and are willing to help our students with their research.