PLM International Research Foundation

All of the PLM marketing budgets in the world are competing against each other.  What would happen if a tiny proportion of that were used to collaborate for the collective good of the industry?

This is not a rhetorical question.  There is now a proposal to establish a PLM International Research Foundation as a neutral, independent, funding platform to support globally-based advanced research into Product Lifecycle Management.



The Foundation would work with industrial companies to identify their most important research issues and then with academic and other research organisations around the world to achieve them.

Its primary attributes are:-

  • Neutral
  • Independent
  • Free to decide which research ideas should be supported
  • Biased towards large-scale, high impact research projects
  • Oriented towards practical industrial application
  • Promoting advanced and difficult research
  • Prudent and robust in management terms, to apply consistency and continuity
  • Prudent and robust in financial terms, to complete its commitments
  • Multi-year existence
  • International (across the industrialised world)
  • Intercontinental (Europe, USA, South America, China, Japan, Korea, India, Antipodes)
  • High profile the central source for PLM research funding
  • Proactive advancing the future state of the whole PLM industry

The intention is that the Foundation will be an independent, well-funded, long-term institution able to promote, fund and manage international research projects into the most advanced possibilities for future PLM.

It is therefore likely that it will be a self-standing legal entity, with a Board to manage its operation and a Steering Committee to advise on its research direction and review its progress.  The structure of the Foundation will need to be robust enough to deal with a budget of several million euros or dollars, and secure enough to ensure proper completion of all the projects that it supports.


Potential Funding

It is proposed that the Foundation should be funded by:-

  • PLM vendors, in order to extend the capabilities of PLM for the next generation;
  • large industrial companies that wish to collaborate and maintain a drive for innovation;
  • national or supranational research bodies.

But is this even possible?  A discussion with the CEO of one of the main vendors suggests that it is.


Focus on Advanced Research

The original idea for this germinated from a press release by Siemens PLM Software in May 2008 announcing an in-kind software grant of US $46million to a Chinese university.  There have been many other examples since then, with different vendors supporting different universities, but the principle is always the same.

Current funding for PLM in the academic realm is aimed around first-degree graduates.  Millions of dollars of "in-kind" donations are made by vendors to universities to equip undergraduate teaching facilities; and a much smaller amount finds its way into projects based around PhD students.

This aims far too low to make any significant impact on PLM research.  First-degree graduates go out into the job market and influence their new employers towards applications they are familiar with, but it is several years before they make any new tracks of their own.  The "one professor and a group of PhDs" model is also inadequate, because the PhD students are still learners in PLM terms.


Finest Minds

Imagine instead that the best 'professor-level' minds in research institutions (say, Shanghai, Bhubaneswar and Magdeburg for example) in several countries collaborate at an international level. Think of the springboard of ideas.  How much more powerful and far-reaching would the research projects be?

Imagine how the new knowledge and the farthest possibilities of PLM would energise the marketplace. Great ideas generate more great ideas, and enthuse the users who are working on adopting PLM.

Imagine that a tiny percentage of the $multi-million 'in-kind' donations publicised in the press releases were real money, invested in developing PLM for the future.

The bullet points above are simplistic, as bullet points often are.  The PLM-IRF Meeting in Brussels began with such "back of an envelope" figures that showed that a neutral, industry-funded Research Foundation is feasible.  Participants then went on to identify many more potential avenues of support.

The main prerequisite is for the PLM industry to develop a clear view and message about what it is aiming for in 10 years' time, so that these lines of support can be integrated.


Voice of the PLM Industry

The initial aim of the PLM International Research Foundation initiative was to create a global platform for PLM research, simply because such a platform does not yet exist.  This seemingly theoretical proposal has led to a wave of ideas about future capabilities that could transform the progress of PLM over the next ten or fifteen years.

This is an unprecedented opportunity for the PLM industry, and it needs high-level support and guidance to help take it forward.  A Steering Group is needed to advise on how to leverage the Future of PLM findings for the good of everyone.

There are many discussions about where the PLM industry is going, but none at all about where the PLM industry should be.  An industry with an estimated size of over $50bn is effectively rudderless.

Everybody knows about the 'Voice of the Customer'.  It is the process of capturing your customers' preferences, expectations and requirements in order to satisfy them with your products or services.  It is at the heart of great product delivery.  The PLM industry has now spoken with such a Voice, and needs a Steering Group to help provide the answer.


About the PLM-IRF

The PLM-IRF needs to be a partnership between industry and academia - an extension of the Academic-Industry Research Platform proposed by the first Lausanne Meeting.  The academic input so far has been global, and industrial companies need to have the vision and ambition to take advantage of these new possibilities.

The PLM-IRF cannot just be an informal association.  It will be responsible for large amounts of research funding, so it must be a recognised legal entity.  It will coordinate research from many different countries, so it must be seen to be neutral.  It will need clear endorsement from leading PLM organisations, so it must be proactive and effective.

The Steering Group will be made up of forward-thinking PLM specialists who will provide high-level guidance for the PLM-IRF initiative.  If you would like to support this "Future of PLM" by becoming part of the Steering Group, then please get in touch.

There will also need to be a Pathfinder Group, or task force, to manage the academic-industry cooperation, establish the structure and run the early-stage work programme.


Evolving the PLM-IRF

When the PLM International Research Foundation is funded it will have the potential to generate a single PLM research programme that spans the globe.  This force needs to be directed for the good of the manufacturing and product-related companies that will benefit from it.

That is why industrial companies should engage with this initiative.  Academic vision is obviously very important, but it will not be enough.  There needs to be some clear industrial engagement and direction so that the new research is real and valuable.

The current lack of advanced PLM research is a significant long-term problem for industrial companies. It means that future PLM capabilities may not support the advanced manufacturing methods that they will want to apply.  It may also be a problem for PLM vendors, because separate technological advances such as "thinking components" may mean that current PLM systems become obsolete, and there is currently no answer for this.

A new Proposal for Support has been published.  The aims of the Proposal are to explain the initiative to industrial companies that might be interested, and to gather support for a series of open discussion meetings that may span several countries.


Read More

The whole structure and development programme of the PLM-IRF is published in the Compendium of PLM Ideas.


The Compendium is available in hard copy format on your nearest Amazon site:-



You can also:-


To find out more about joining the Steering Group or Pathfinder Group, contact

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