For some R&D decision makers, the ‘lab of the future’ conjures up images of endless cost and resources diverted to new and complex systems. To others the issue of mobility is at the forefront -like Pandora’s Box – best left untouched to avoid difficult questions. In the search for the lab of the future, too many R&D functions are severely overestimating TCO and taking the wrong route to modernizing processes.
At the recent Bio-IT World Conference in Boston, I challenged the audience to think about what this futuristic vision means to them. To avoid the pitfalls, it’s important for us to define what we really mean by lab of the future – and then think practically about how we can move towards it.
Defining the lab of the future
We are yet to see a universal definition emerge. Crucially though, we can agree it is not about finding a use for technology. Rather, it is about identifying operational changes that better serve key business drivers. This spans infrastructure, processes, people, and even the business model itself.
Defining your lab of the future
As the lab of the future becomes a realistic goal, clamor will grow for a ‘best practice’ approach. It is especially important that this is driven by striving to achieve the business’ key goals, not by empty futurism. After all, R&D teams are under increasing pressure to deliver results faster, better, cheaper.
With those drivers in mind, forward-thinking organizations will shape their lab of the future strategy around three key areas:
- Ergonomics: physical layout is critical to productivity in the lab. This is about using the right tools to solve small problems – and good informatics systems should support whatever interface is best-suited to the job
- Automation: the benefits of a paperless approach cannot be overstated. We have seen first-hand the importance of R&D teams having one searchable, accessible, single source of knowledge. This is the best-case example of automation – rather than merely automating the past for the sake of change
- Virtualization: as large R&D organizations gravitate towards becoming research hubs and externalizing the research process, they must be ready to support multiple teams and data streams
While the lab is changing, the world around it is changing even faster. In fact, it’s likely that the lab of the future will be rooted in the consumer technology of today. R&D leaders must focus on the continuous improvement of processes to meet business goals rather than technology for technology sake. In shaping a strategy around ergonomics, automation and virtualization, the R&D lab of the future might not be so far off after all.
At the Bio-IT World Conference, we also announced a technology partnership with ChemAxon. The strategic deal will see ChemAxon’s industry-leading chemical sciences software integrated into E-WorkBook and ActivityBase. To find out more about the partnership, read the full press release here.