IDTechEx's Dr Matthew Dyson on Data-Driven Decision-Making as Future of Emerging Technology

IDTechEx's Dr Matthew Dyson on Data-Driven Decision-Making as Future of Emerging Technology

Interview by Anja Paspalj
Published: March 01, 2023

Who Is Dr Matthew Dyson

After a PGCE and teaching physics in London, Matthew completed a Master of Research and PhD in Physics at Imperial College London. He has been involved in academic research across a wide range of printed/flexible electronic topics. Dr Matthew Dyson has been at IDTechEx for three years and now holds the position of Principal Technology Analyst, specializing in printed/flexible and hybrid electronics.

When it comes to early-stage technologies, businesses often struggle to commercialize their ideas and turn an innovative product into lucrative growth.   

Data-driven decision-making can be the magic formula for businesses struggling to cross “the valley of death to successful adoption.” By combining both qualitative and quantitative information, IDTechEx provides irreplaceable insights for strategic business decisions and emerging technology. Established in Cambridge in 1999, the tech company now has subsidiaries in Japan, Germany and the USA, pivoting early-stage technology to success.  

Dr Matthew Dyson, principal technology analyst at IDTechEx, gives us insight into fueling business growth, the key aspects of data-driven decision-making and how sustainability has become an integral part of the process.  

Spotlight: What does data-driven decision-making mean and how can organizations use this strategy to fuel business growth? 

Dr Matthew Dyson: Making strategic business choices, such as where to direct Research and Development expenditure, is difficult. Data-driven decision-making means basing your decisions on more than intuition, instead drawing on well-organized, reliable information. Both qualitative and quantitative information can be valuable: while quantitative data is easier to present and analyze, nuanced insight not apparent from the numbers can often be gleaned from an interview with an industry professional. By attending dozens of conferences and interviewing many 100s of companies every year, IDTechEx is well placed to provide qualitative and quantitative insight into the status and prospects of emerging technologies, helping our clients’ strategic decision making.  

Collecting data and developing actionable insights is also crucial in optimizing operations, such as improving the efficiency of a manufacturing line. Often termed ‘Industry 4.0’, this involves adding a multitude of connected sensors to a production line, enabling predictive maintenance and early warning of any quality control issues.  

For over 15 years, IDTechEx has been supporting clients with strategic business decisions. What steps do you take to learn about an organization or emerging technology? What is your research methodology?  

IDTechEx works with clients from many industries, including automotive, consumer electronics, healthcare and energy, to support their decision-making process. We evaluate the technical and commercial merits of many emerging technologies by attending conferences/trade shows, interviewing both established and emerging companies and exploring academic and patent literature. This enables us to provide granular technology roadmaps and market forecasts, along with identification of technological gaps and market opportunities.   

Fundamentally understanding emerging technologies is essential in separating hype from reality, and hence determining viability, scalability and relative value proposition relative to competing approaches. To ensure this, IDTechEx’s analysts have strong academic backgrounds in science and engineering, with many holding PhDs. This underlying technical understanding, combined with over 20 years’ experience of analyzing how new technologies have emerged, enables us to provide detailed strategically relevant insight. 

You work as a technology analyst on printed/flexible electronics. How did you go from being a physics and chemistry student to working in this role?   

After obtaining my undergraduate degree, a Joint Honours in Physics and Chemistry and a few years teaching physics, I completed my PhD at Imperial College London within the Center for Plastic Electronics. This incorporated research groups from across the physics, chemistry and material science departments, creating a truly interdisplinary environment. My project explored how the properties of organic semiconductors could be manipulated, and was followed by 2 years post-doctoral research at Eindhoven Technical University in the Netherlands investigating organic photodetectors. During this period, which included many international collaborations, I gained a broad awareness of technologies and applications across the printed and flexible electronics space, as well as the challenges in scaling the technology from laboratory from production.  

Of course, for all the research effort to be worthwhile and deliver value to the wider world, early-stage technologies need to be commercialized. I was keen to understand this process better, and determine why so many scientifically acclaimed technologies struggle to cross the ‘valley of death’ to successful adoption. As a rare PhD student who voluntarily browsed the business pages, the role of Technology Analyst at IDTechEx seemed a good opportunity to apply my broad technical understanding to the commercial domain.  

Sustainability in electronics is quite a hot topic and one of your recent reports talks about making sustainable electronics tangible. What are some of the challenges?  

IDTechEx’s recent report on sustainable electronics manufacturing covers the fundamental building blocks of electronics – printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. The report concentrates on cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods that can be used in their manufacturing. 

One of the main challenges associated with sustainable electronics manufacturing is that the electronics industry is very traditional and many of the processes originate from a time when sustainability was not a concern. Such an established and traditional industry is understandably reluctant to make sudden changes because these can bring high capital costs, the need to re-optimize each process and a degree of risk. It is therefore very important that any new sustainable process be as compatible as possible with existing methods of production or present such a clear economic advantage that is worth the effort to overhaul convention.  

The emergence of additive manufacturing routes (as opposed to subtractive) is an example of a fairly revolutionary approach with the potential to slash both emissions and pecuniary costs. The challenges and opportunities provided by additive manufacturing, that is printed electronics, is discussed in depth in IDTechEx’s report. 

We are fortunately starting to see some positive shifts in the electronics industry largely driven by greater incentivization for companies to adopt new methods. The motivations include increased funding and investment opportunities for companies engaged in sustainability as well as improved public perception, a factor that is becoming increasingly important as consumers make more conscientious purchasing decisions. There are also legislative policies driving change, particularly within the EU where environmental policies are becoming stricter.  

Could you share some examples of what leading companies in the industry are doing to reduce their carbon footprint and reach net zero targets?   

Many renowned companies such as TSMC, Foxconn, IBM, Intel and Samsung, among many others, are employing renewable energy sources to power their facilities across the world. Many companies have set out targets for 100% renewable energy for all their global sites within the near future, with the likes of Samsung already having accomplished this. The use of renewable energy is expected to have a sizeable impact on reducing the carbon footprint and we are seeing promising levels of action on this front. 

Several companies like IBM and Samsung have also made strides in increasing their water conservation and re-use. The electronics industry is known to use a substantial amount of water with many manufacturing plants existing in water-stressed regions of the world. Conserving water presents a strong environmental advantage but also lowers the risk of manufacturing being disrupted by periods of drought. 

A final example, as mentioned previously, is the use of data-driven decision-making to reduce emissions. Sustainable electronics manufacturing presents many opportunities to be more efficient, cut down on waste and improve cost-effectiveness. Using smart digital manufacturing methods to automate processes as well sensor technology to detect leaks and excess material usage can help companies to minimize waste and lower unnecessary costs. Several companies such as Intel, Siemens, Apple and Microsoft are known to be using such methods to streamline their operations. 

Lastly, IDTechEx hosts 27 web free journals to provide readers with a daily update on the latest industry developments. What’s the strategy behind this?  

Clients rely on IDTechEx to provide them with updates and strategic insight on many different industries and sectors. In order for clients to know what to expect from IDTechEx prior to engaging our services, we make some of our analysis publicly accessible through various formats including webinars, articles and press releases on industry news. IDTechEx’s objective is to provide up-to-date, unbiased and independent analysis of emerging technologies and we make that clear through our web journal content.  

Thank you for your insight, Matthew! 

Follow IDTechEx on LinkedIn and read more about groundbreaking companies here. 

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