Imagine a foursome gang of young startup entrepreneurs resembling a rock band walking into a roomful of seasoned venture capitalists. They are clutching not a laptop with slides that would hesitantly and vaguely reveal their dream but a real-world manufacturing prototype that has already been tested for efficiency and strength. Now, think further that this product would take on a multinational — and there is a group of would-be partners and vendors with whom emails have been already exchanged by these youngsters on costs and manufacturing possibilities.
If that reads like corporate fantasy fiction, consider the idea that it is already a reality — in 3D, if you please. Three-dimensional design and virtual collaboration are common enough in the age of cloud computing, but it is time for us now to think beyond — of what one could call a Cloud Plus Ecosystem. The power of the Internet must now be amplified by linkages to external contacts to strengthen the business outcomes of internal collaboration. Sinewy muscles of partners matched to a digital nervous system give young companies a potent network at lower costs that make startups resemble multinationals.
This is already possible — if one looks beyond the obvious.
This is where the folks at Dassault Systèmes are looking at a Cloud Plus environment in which incubators, advisors, mentors, would-be partners, and potential suppliers come together around a software platform that enables virtualization of everything from idea to design and testing.
We know the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about robots, drones, electric vehicles, and a host of yet-unimagined industrial automation products and systems that ultimately have a real-world touch and feel. A matching ecosystem that enables it all now links the virtual with the real.
As artificial intelligence and bionics narrow the gap between natural and artificial, the opportunities for startups are tremendous but the challenges are daunting.
In speed and scale, virtualization of design is no longer enough. Time-to-market and testing of product lines (to enable flexibility in eventual manufacture) need to go hand in hand. Imagine a company with 700 prototypes or alternate customer experiences before product launch. Cloud Plus adds that extra muscle. Typically, what used to take six years traditionally can now be done in 18 months or less. Needless to say, speed gives edge in competition. Here’s where 3D printing combined with Cloud Plus can make a dramatic difference. Additive manufacturing, as it is sometimes called, is now being used by the likes of Chrysler, Ford, GM and Mitsubishi. Ford already has five centers worldwide to do this. One of them single-handedly builds about 20,000 prototype parts a year. Imagine a startup stepping into the shoes of Ford now. The three Fs – Fit, Form and Function – are now put in a “show-and-tell” format. Product design has never been so easy or smooth.
There is nothing like been-there-done-that examples to show where the game is going, so you can benchmark yourself in a new startup culture to be a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
You can think like electric vehicle maker NIO that used 3DEXPERIENCE to build a global R&D platform to take on established car giants at one end and new-age customers who want convenience, quality assurance and easy servicing at the other. In India, auto-maker Mahindra, which is now an ambitious electric vehicle maker after acquiring Reva, is using Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULlA applications at the fashionably named Mahindra Research Valley to help the group meet emission norms, improve fuel efficiency and cut costs even as it takes new innovations to a competitive market place. Design, process and efficiency are simultaneously organized around the cloud platform.
In fact, for startups, even business model innovations that radically alter the market can be aided by such a platform – with a design-centric approach. California-based Canoo offers cars on subscription (yes!) to leapfrog the industry from buy-or-lease habits. It is doing this by going into the innards of car design. A virtual 3DEXPERIENCE helps it imagine possibilities without the messiness of old-world trial-and-error. Using 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Canoo has junked the conventional three-box design to configure a futuristic car that can be a private vehicle, an Uber-friendly rideshare roadster or a delivery van for Amazon.
Collaboration for futuristic design, as France’s solar drone maker XSun notes, involves multidisciplinary work. This is vital for safety-oriented and regulation-compliant design in which loads of disparate data lakes combine to form a navigable ocean so that a startup like XSun can arrive at a golden mean to “find the best compromises according to requirements in terms of structure, loads, position, and internal volume.” That is algebra on steroids delivered in a single location. That is interesting stuff from the land of Jules Verne. From fictional submarines to sky-kissing drones, France has come a long way.
Remember, this is a zero-tolerance aerospace kind of situation.
General Aeronautics, headed by Dr. Kota Harinarayana, who once spearheaded India’s light combat aircraft (Tejas) programme, is a high-tech baby nurtured by the Indian Institute of Science. The talent-heavy Bangalore startup is using Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform to develop the next-generation UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Here the systems engineering approach is built around the platform. Drone simulation is – at least for these top-dog scientists – like a video game.
What makes such a Cloud Plus act special for startups is that for under INR 45,000 a year you can use the same software as a Tesla or an Airbus and also get additional corporate accessories. This is an environment in which collaboration, simulation, onboarding, and learning are thrown into a virtual box over which you can have the added benefit of a structured community to engage with. This is not to be confused with random contact additions on LinkedIn. In a Cloud Plus ecosystem, the community members are handpicked. Think of it more like a Tinder for the tech-savvy.
All this is made possible by “open innovation” — a bespoke high-tech collaboration network paralleling open-source software but without its amateurishness.
The best part is that India is already on the future map of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Covid-19 pandemic threw up both threats and opportunities. As medical equipment ran short, Pune-based Inali Foundation designed and assembled a smart ventilator with the help of an elite social network of mentors. A prototype was produced and validated in less than eight days. While the world has been going ga-ga over the Covid-19 vaccines being produced with unprecedented speed, a parallel revolution was possible in respirators, thanks to a cocktail of 3DEXPERIENCE, collaboration, and a community system that is typically Cloud Plus.
That should sound like pleasant Rajasthani music in the land of the Jaipur Foot which pioneered mechanical limbs that have already helped 1.9 million people in 33 countries. The Jaipur Foot was here long before bionics became an idea. Now, Inali is trying to democratize artificial limbs that can be linked to brain signals because a majority of the current lot costs $30,000 to 40,000 apiece. If high-tech limbs can be made affordable as well, there is a new revolution in your backyard. Inali’s co-founder Prashant Gade made it to the popular Kaun Banega Crorepati quiz show hosted by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as a socially conscious Karamveer (Work Warrior) – proving that even a not-for-profit agency can excel like a high-tech startup using a Cloud Plus platform.
We know now that a lot can happen over 3DEXPERIENCE platform to make the virtual turn real. The future could involve new-age equivalents of the Inali respirator or the Jaipur Foot — designed by other Indian startups whose founders may be still in college.
Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” If you stretch that saying to visualization or global collaboration by startups with just about anybody who matters, what we can see is not the advancement of what is already out there but the beginning of a whole new adventure. Think beyond bionics to biotechnology featuring molecules in their myriad patterns, and you can see the paradigm shifting beyond engineering to biotechnology and biologics. The possible outcomes in medicine, healthcare and lifestyle may be the stuff of sci-fi movies. For Indian startups, the game must have just begun. Covid-19 may be, in hindsight, a trigger to a new age of innovation that blends the art of visualization with the science of everything.
For startups eager to take their business to greater heights of success, a cloud-based solution makes perfect sense. If you’re interested in knowing more about 3DEXPERIENCE for Startups, please sign up for a demo.