Materials 4.0 Landscaping Report Executive Summary

Announcement follows the publication of a series of reports exploring the digitalisation barriers for Materials 4.0

Henry Royce Institute calls for National Steering Group for Digital Materials and Manufacturing

The Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials today calls for the establishment of a National Steering Group for Digital Materials and Manufacturing, to help accelerate the development of digital-first approaches to materials science. The announcement follows the publication of a series of reports exploring the digitalisation barriers for Materials 4.0.

  • Group needed to accelerate the development of digital materials science
  • Urgent need to bring net-zero technologies into service within five years
  • Materials 4.0 will accelerate the discovery, innovation, and validation of new materials
  • Group could advise the UK government on the transition to a digital-first materials ecosystem

The need for digitalisation within materials science and innovation is stronger now than ever, given that advanced materials will be key to almost all the major challenges we face over the next decade and beyond. However, developing new materials has always been seen as a slow, risky, and expensive process, and 20-year development cycles are not uncommon for safety-critical applications. Therefore, if the UK is to stand a chance of meeting its 2050 net-zero commitments, there is an urgent need to bring the new materials required for net-zero technologies into service within the next five years.

Materials 4.0

Achieving this timescale lies with Materials 4.0, a digital materials revolution that will accelerate the discovery, innovation, and validation of new materials. Royce is providing a focus around which the materials community can coalesce on the Materials 4.0 revolution in order to ensure the needs of the materials community are represented to government and funders.

The central aim is to remove the current blockers to the establishment of Materials 4.0 and to permit the materials R&D community to develop the technologies required. The idea is that Materials 4.0 will also provide capability and know-how to enable the UK to respond quickly in terms of adopting a new materials informatics framework which combines capabilities from risk management, materials modelling, AI/machine learning, manufacturing informatics, and life-cycle simulation.

Professor Iain Todd, Materials 4.0 Project Champion and Scientific Lead at Royce, said:

“Materials 4.0 would revolutionise the way we discover, develop and manufacture new materials and proposes a digital materials revolution to accelerate the discovery, innovation, and validation of new materials.

Just as Industry 4.0 is introducing a digital thread through manufacturing, Materials 4.0 is needed so that we can predict and control materials’ microstructures and performance through processing and, subsequently, in service through a materials digital twin.”


Royce has commissioned a series of reports to explore common digitalisation barriers within the context of Materials 4.0. Taken together, the reports examine in detail a range of opportunities where the development of digital-first tools can lead to accelerated materials development. They identify a range of challenges to overcome including the proprietary nature of materials data and data interoperability. These reports are:

Materials 4.0 – A Role for Standards: In collaboration with Ferroday we examined the standards that are currently available for digital storage of materials related data and considered the reasons that these have not been widely adopted to date.

Enabling trust in data exchange for Materials 4.0: In collaboration with Digital Catapult, we considered the issues relating to data-sharing and examined methods for sharing data between competing organisations for mutual benefit.

Lab Automation for Innovation in Materials Chemistry:  In collaboration with the Materials Innovation Factory at the University of Liverpool, we reviewed the use of automation and robotics to improve innovation efficiency.

Materials Microstructure Image and Data Repository Scoping Report:  In collaboration with Impact Data Metrics, we examined a use case for the storage of data and identified key requirements of data repositories and indexing systems.

All four reports are summarised in an over-arching document Towards Materials 4.0, what is holding back the next materials age?

Steering Group

On the basis of these reports, Royce has identified the need for a National Steering Group to drive forward the adoption of Materials 4.0, supporting research into understanding the current separation of material science and information science, as well as advising the UK government on the current state of the transition to a digital-first materials ecosystem.

This would include the establishment of relationships with regulators to accelerate the integration of emerging technologies and applications, and support new or revised legal and contractual requirements for these technologies.

A series of actions are recommended for a group to take forward to coordinate engagement in digital materials research, both in academia and within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult network. It could also encourage significant integration with national data strategies with the National Digital Twin Programme at the Centre for Digital Built Britain.

Royce CEO, Professor David Knowles, said:

“These reports are part of a suite commissioned by the Henry Royce Institute in relation to our role around convening the UK advanced materials community to help develop new research activity that will meet the grand challenges we face – from clean growth to an ageing society.

The roadmapping and landscaping process enables connections between materials disciplines, institutes, and industry experts, and acts as springboard to a national approach to the development of a research programme.”

Visit the Materials 4.0 page here to find out more about the project.

Royce is funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research & Innovation.


Judith Holcroft
Royce Communications & Engagement Manager