The Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (VPMI) connects Brock University’s advanced scientific and applied research expertise, state-of-the-art equipment assets, and testing and training capabilities with industry in the bioproducts, bioscience, bioagriculture and chemical manufacturing sectors. Examples of these successful VPMI-industry partnerships are highlighted in this series. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
When one company buys out another, introduces a new service or raises the price of their products, how do these and other changes affect players in the same market?
Anteneh Ayanso and post-doctoral researcher Leila Tahmooresnejad aim to take the guesswork out of such predictions.
The Brock University experts are investigating whether a collection of methods and tools called social network analysis combined with current prediction models can help companies be nimbler and more responsive to market changes.
“The traditional approach is to try to understand where the market is heading in any sector through official company information such as annual surveys and reports,” says Ayanso. “Or maybe you can have faster understanding of the market by using advanced analytics and rich databases to enhance accuracy in the prediction process.”
To test this out, the Brock Professor of Information Systems contacted Rel8ed – a Coface Company, a local firm specializing in data analytics. Rel8ed was recently acquired by Coface, a French insurance giant with growth plans for the company’s Niagara-built technology for artificial intelligence and data processing.
“Anteneh always brings us amazing product ideas to consider,” says Rel8ed founder and General Manager Bob Lytle. “Over the years, this partnership in primary and practical research has led to several new products and a chance to work with, and often hire, some great students and post-graduate and faculty data scientists.”
Lytle says research partnerships with organizations like Ayanso’s Centre for Business Analytics are of “significant interest” to Rel8ed’s new global parent.
The Brock team is conducting this research with one of Rel8ed’s clients.
Social network analysis uses sophisticated mathematical modelling called ‘graph theory’ that maps out relationships between groups of people, referred to as ‘nodes.’
The mapping is done by inputting a wide array of data — in this case, purchases, sales, advertising, media reports and other information concerning individual companies — into the model.
That’s where Rel8ed comes into the picture — by supplying this company data and the market thinking behind the product idea.
One of the company’s key products is the Advanced Business Database, which gathers open and public information about corporations from multiple sources over many years. This product, along with unique customer data, served as the basis of the research question.
Rel8ed is interested in the possibility of using social network analysis to create new prediction products for its customers, says Rel8ed Project Manager Mirelle Mwiza Iradukunda.
“We knew this research could develop into something interesting, but we had no idea how powerful the outcomes would be,” she says.
A social network analysis method could more easily identify market signals than conventional approaches, says Tahmooresnejad, who is a member of the research team.
A ‘market signal’ is an activity — such as a price reduction, new marketing campaign or plant expansion — that could be interpreted to yield insights into a company’s reputation, future plans or other deeper information.
Ayanso says he and his team aim to build a “signals engine” that Rel8ed could offer to its clients.
The hope is that social network analysis could boost not only a company’s performance but an industry overall, says Tahmooresnejad.
“Firms that have strong connections with one another are more likely to have greater access to new opportunities in the market than firms that have weak connections with others,” she says. “When we use the social network analysis method, we can identify gaps in relationships between firms. When we find these gaps, these can be opportunities to develop new markets.”
This latest project funded by the Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (VPMI) builds on a partnership between Rel8ted and Brock stretching back to 2018.
At that time, the Centre for Business Analytics (CBA) at the Goodman School of Business was working with Rel8ed to research how artificial intelligence could be used to create more effective ways of targeting advertisements to potential customers.
For that research, Ayanso was awarded funding from the then-Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.