Microscopy: Software as a Growth Engine

Covid-19 has made many market forecasts obsolete. But notwithstanding the special economic conditions, market studies see long-term trends in microscopy.

It is still too early to quantify the economic effects that the pandemic has had on the microscopy market. On the one hand, production has collapsed in many regions and industries, which is likely to have a negative effect on demand for material microscopy solutions in industrial quality assurance. Naturally, strong declines in sales and shrinking order books have an effect on the respective industrial customers’ willingness to invest. On the other hand, in the areas of medical research and personalized medicine, there is increased demand for microscopes; however, many research laboratories were locked down during the pandemic. All we can do is wait and see what direction sales in the global market for microscopy systems will take this year—and how quickly manufacturers will overcome the current economic downturn.

Deep learning and software platforms for correlative microscopy

In late 2019, market researchers from Research & Markets predicted annual growth of 5.5 percent between 2019 and 2024 for the microscopy market. Based on interviews with twenty leading microscope manufacturers, they quantified the global market volume at USD 6.3 billion (~ €5.3 billion) in 2019 – and forecast that this could reach USD 8.2 billion by 2024.

While at present these figures can only give a rough idea of the market volume, they do provide interesting indications for long-term trends. “We expect the software segment to show the highest growth rates during the forecasting period,” says the study. This statement is in line with the estimations of Dr. Michael Albiez, Managing Director of Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH. In the latest LASER interview, he explains that in microscope development the focus is gradually shifting from the hardware towards software. There is also an increase in the use of neural networks and artificial intelligence in evaluating increasingly large volumes of data and in the automatic control of modern microscopes. Especially considering that correlative software platforms offer users smooth workflows where they are used for sample analysis with different microscopy methods.

Other LASER World of PHOTONICS exhibitors, such as Olympus, Nikon, Oxford Instruments, KEYENCE, and Vision Engineering have supplemented their microscopy hardware with extensive software solutions and, increasingly, deep learning methods.

Electron microscopy is gaining momentum

Research & Markets named another interesting trend with regard to market development of the different microscopy methods. The manufacturers who were interviewed expect higher growth rates for electron microscopy than for light or scanning microscopy. This is due to the fact that electron microscopes are used increasingly in material microscopy and in the life sciences and are often employed to complement light microscopes. In other words, an additional analysis method to obtain more information from samples. In turn, these flying changes between the microscopy methods increase demand for software-based, correlative workflows.

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