Institution news

60 seconds with...Laurence Marks

Institution News Team

Independent Modelling Specialist Laurence Marks weighs in on the state of simulation technologies and hints at a possible future direction ahead of his presentation at this year's Simulation and Modelling conference.

For full details of the conference and to book your place, please visit the event website at

Please briefly explain your role, involvement, and experience with simulation and modelling

Lawrence Marks (LM): I’m currently a consultant undertaking a range of projects in Finite Element Analysis and CFD, and I also have roles at my two local universities, where I supervise student projects at Masters and DPhil levels. I’ve been working in the simulation world since the 1980’s and most recently was a founder and MD of SSA, a company focused on Abaqus, and engineering solutions using it. Over the years I’ve worked on projects in many areas of engineering, but a constant theme has been biomechanics, where I’ve worked on numerous projects and have published several papers.

What is the top challenge facing your industry at present?

LM: I’d say the biggest challenge in the simulation space is identity. Over the past few years the major PLM companies have become very acquisitive and there has been significant consolidation, with many simulation specialists being bought by PLM generalists, which in many cases has meant a downsizing of support teams and reduced focus on simulation tool development. The challenge is to keep driving the development and application of simulation technologies as the focus of the software supply channels becomes reduced. I think the most important aspect is recognising that simulation is a separate skill set, and working to build networks of expertise and support beyond the traditional streams. Simulation engineers work best within networks.

How would you say your industry has evolved over the past five years?

LM: I’d say not much if you are an average user of simulation technology. Pretty much everything you can do now you could do 5 years ago. Possibly faster, but not faster enough to change the scope of what you do appreciably. Embedding simulation further and deeper into the design process may be an advantage to enterprises, if it becomes more than an aspiration, but it isn’t evolution in the simulation space. Incorporating simulation into design workflows at the appropriate time, with model definition appropriate to the design maturity/simulation requirement, has been possible since the 1990s.

One thing that has possibly advanced in this period is the widespread acceptance of the fact that learning and exploiting Python is a key to improved scope and efficiency of modelling. And another is the availability of usable public domain codes which have all but eliminated barriers to the adoption of simulation technologies.

What developments are going on in your industry that may have an impact on the development of future approaches to the use of modelling?

LM: It would be somewhat luddite in attitude to ignore AI here. But I’m not sure that it won’t come with a pretty serious overhead. All you have to do is look at the holes in the general picture to see where more traditional work is needed (try to use the internet to find properly useful non-linear material properties and you’ll see a somewhat patchy picture). So I’d like to think there will be a improvement in basic information availability and modelling approaches driven by the power, pull and opportunity of AI. I’m not confident though.

What will you be presenting at the ‘Simulation and Modelling’ seminar and how will this benefit participants?

LM: I’m going to be talking about how taking a different approach to model definition has resulted in significantly reduced solution timeframes and the ability to investigate the effects of variability in a population. Beyond the specific lessons for models of the knee, the main take away should be that model simplification and a focus on meshes is as important as it ever was.

Which other speakers and presentations are you looking forward to hearing at the forthcoming seminar?

LM: It wouldn’t be fair to single out any individuals from the list. But its safe to say that the event has attracted a serious array of presenters. I’m looking forward to the event.

Why is it important for engineers and industry to come together at this event and share best practice?

LM: As I mentioned, many of the traditional support mechanisms have been eroded, and online resources only go so far, especially when it comes to generating the enthusiasm and energy required to push simulation forwards. Watching people present from other fields is invaluable when it comes to developing your own workflows and approaches – too often we only reference and exploit experiences from our own narrow fields and this is a great opportunity to widen our view, and develop on what we do.

The Simulation and Modelling 2023 conference will return on 12-13 September 2023 to the MTC in Coventry.

To expand to meet the needs of delegates, the Simulation and Modelling conference 2023 will explore areas relating to AI and machine learning, simulation and sustainability, digital twinning and regulation and standardisation.

Presenting organisations include Jaguar Land Rover, The Alan Turing Institute, Polestar, Digilab, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, HBK UK, Airbus, Red Engineering, JCB, BSI, Williams Advanced Engineering and many more.

For full details of the conference and to book your place, please visit the event website at


Professional Engineering magazine

Professional Engineering app

  • Industry features and content
  • Engineering and Institution news
  • News and features exclusive to app users

Download our Professional Engineering app

Professional Engineering newsletter

A weekly round-up of the most popular and topical stories featured on our website, so you won't miss anything

Subscribe to Professional Engineering newsletter

Opt into your industry sector newsletter

Related articles