The Reinvention of the Laboratory
In many laboratories, the opportunities brought by digitization have so far hardly been exploited. Something that the “SmartLAB” network wants to change. It is looking for foreign companies to get involved in product development.
Markus Sebeck, Engineer and project manager, SmartLAB | © EurA AG In many laboratories, digitization and automation have not yet been introduced, meaning a lot of manual work and slow processes continue, says engineer Markus Sebeck. “This slows down the work and leads to high operating costs.” In many laboratories, for each individual sample an employee must read devices and enter their results into lists or into a computer. “This often leads to mistakes,” says Sebeck. “And then you have to do all the work again.” There are also problems in research laboratories, where, for example, a lot of time is lost during the setup of experiments.
That is why members of the “SmartLAB” network are dealing with the question of how lab work could function more quickly and more economically in the future. Markus Sebeck is the project manager of the network, whose members are distributed throughout Germany. “We want to digitize and automate laboratories and make them more efficient this way,” he explains. Twelve small and medium-sized enterprises, two large companies and six research institutes are currently involved in the network. They all pool their different expertise, including laboratory operation, instruments and other equipment, measuring and testing technology, consumables, software and IT. The network is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
The members of the network not only want to collaborate on research but also to develop new products and processes. “We need labs and scientists because they know what’s going on in their labs,” explains Sebeck. “But we also need technicians and software specialists to create products that can be realized from the ideas.” Members work together in several smaller groups to develop new technologies and products. The companies then jointly decide who is going to bring the products to the market.
Sebeck is particularly keen to attract potential foreign partners, as they would give the network greater opportunities internationally. “We want to develop solutions that can be marketed in different countries,” he says.
He does not want to reveal too much about the current product slate but in the future, for example, test results are due to be automatically be sent from the measuring devices to a central computer system. In addition, the network wants to create lab equipment that self-adapts to changing user needs and assistance tools to support the user in planning, performing and evaluating tests. “Simple, fast and efficient – this is how we imagine the laboratory of the future,” he says.