Research and development (R&D) is changing. And with concepts such as the ‘lab of the future’ and the ‘paperless lab’ becoming more common, it’s important to understand what these terms really mean in practice. The lab of the future is not just about replacing notebooks with electronic versions. Today’s concept of the ‘paperless lab’ goes well beyond that.
In a world where simply ‘automating the past’ is not an option, let’s take a close look at the drivers leading R&D organizations to question traditional processes. Firms must find new ways of carrying out research in electronic environments that take into account issues such as mobility, ease of use and collaborative working.
The key facets of what most R&D organizations do have been the same for many years. But one huge change has swept the entire sector – the dramatic shift towards externalized and collaborative ways of working. This presents new challenges as R&D professionals are required to analyze and aggregate results that may have been generated by someone else in a different lab, or even a different company. Today’s model means that the right data needs to be with the right person at the right time. That also means that teams must overcome issues such as IP protection and IT security.
Collaboration has also been a response to the pressure of bringing products to market quicker and a welcome advance for many labs. In pharma, for example, up-and-coming competitors are able to produce similar products at a much lower cost. In this scenario, cutting development costs, increasing speed to market and innovative agility are matters of commercial survival.
With enterprise software being fundamental to these changes, it’s clear that it has a key role to play in the lab of the future, but it must power organizations from the background. The lab of the future is one that allows R&D professionals to focus on their number one concerns – science and innovation. The supporting systems and software should enable and facilitate without adding a further layer of complexity to the scientist’s world.