Expert Opinion

What will matter most to UK and global laboratories in the new normal?

UK analytics experts and equipment suppliers believe accelerated digital transformation, automation and the ability to remain productive despite major disruption will continue to be important to ensure laboratories and bioproduction remain competitive into the future…

Pandemic response driven innovation

“In the first months of 2021, and until the UK population reaches an acceptable level of immunity, investments will focus primarily in the area of  Testing & Tracing the spread of the pandemic.

At the same time, with more approved vaccines in sight, we’ll see a strong reprise of the investments in Cell and Gene Therapy as well as bioproduction, both in research and large-scale production, motivated by the rising incidences of chronic diseases in the populations of the northern hemisphere.

We can also expect increased equipment investments from Universities as well as companies supported by government’s funding of public-private projects. A growing portion of the demand will come across the digital selling tools that have seen rapid development and expansion during the toughest COVID-19 lockdown months.”

Maurizio Merli, Commercial Director, EMEA, Growth, Protection and Separation Products, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Maximising process efficiency

“Lab data automation will become increasingly important in 2021. Automated processing is essential to maximise process efficiency, particularly for any high-throughput experimentation.

Equally importantly, automation ensures data is clean and free from human-error. Clean data is essential as research organizations increasingly turn to AI and Machine Learning to support and drive decision making.  Labs will also continue to adapt to new working practices necessitated by the pandemic, with scientists in the lab to conduct experiments but working remotely on data entry and collaboratively on analysis. In 2021 the adoption of cloud-based research informatics systems will continue to support this hybrid working model.”

Stephen Gallagher, CEO, Dotmatics

Productivity resilience in the face of major disruption

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that labs should be able to maintain productivity in the face of a major disruption. Building this resilience and business continuity into lab operations will be critical in 2021.

The pandemic has also demonstrated the power of innovation, and how solutions to big problems can be achieved rapidly when we work together on a common goal.

The labs that can maintain this mindset, even when the crisis has passed, will have a definite advantage in adapting to future demands. We are seeing a rapid acceleration in applying digital transformation and workflow automation to support these shifts."

Ian Yates, Director, Enterprise Science & Innovation Partnerships, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Maximising the value of data

“For life science organisations looking to safeguard their business for the future, digital transformation is key. 

Scientists in laboratories across the world are executing numerous complex biological experiments every day but, with such huge amounts of data being generated, it is increasingly challenging to structure and share research findings to derive meaningful insights needed to get effective drugs to market, fast. 

Using advanced technologies like machine learning and AI will enable life science organisations to optimise research processes and discover key information within their data – at a time when it has never been more critical.”

Katrin Wiederhold, Director of Life Sciences, Whitehat Analytics

Image source: The three D’s of digital transformation, What is digital transformation? | Jisc

Digital adaption for remote services

"The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of the central and strategic role that digital technologies play in underpinning the long-term success and sustainability of universities. While the ability to shift educational delivery online in a short period of time was impressive, this was done by necessity, not choice. The big – and as yet unanswered – question is the extent to which the benefits and opportunities we glimpsed in this period will lead to a more joined-up and holistic approach to the use of digital technologies in the future.  When the pandemic hit, some universities already had digital embedded throughout and were able to adapt quickly. Others found themselves casting around for ideas, skills and technologies. What it has shown is that developing a long-term strategy for digital is now more essential than ever, despite the evolving and uncertain circumstances we face.”

Extracted from the Forward of Jisc’s Digital at the core: a 2030 strategy framework for university leaders, 3 November 2020