On the 6th December 2023, Dr Samantha Pearman-Kanza and Mr Samuel Munday attended the Future Labs, Automation & Technology Summit Europe 2023 in London for the second year in a row on behalf of PSDI. This was a day long in person event run by AMG world that brought together experts in lab automation and technology to collaborate and discuss common challenges and hear best practice insights to successfully execute lab automation, robotics, and digitalisation initiatives. There were a range of presentations, round table discussions, panels, and technology sessions with different exhibitors.
Samantha and Sam ran a round table discussion on “Making Scientific Research Fair” where we heard from a range of researchers in industry and academia about their challenges in this area. Our particular participants identified their main challenges as:
- Data Silos/Disconnected Data
- Lack of Standards (Data and Processes)
- The long and challenging journey from paper based solutions to implementing digital solutions, with respect to identifying these solutions, and the wide-spread resistance to change
- How to identify a) whether an ELN is a viable solution for you and b) if so, what ELN?
- Breaking down siloed groups to want to collaborate
The group discussed a range of ways to mitigate some of these challenges, notably implementing change management, and adopting a new attitude to a lot of these issues, and ultimately asking the right questions when it comes to considering what technologies to implement. There is no hard and fast answer to a lot of these problems, but how we go about trying to solve them can make a huge difference. We need to be careful not to assume specific tools or technologies are the answer, but rather we need to break down what exactly we are trying to achieve, what our pain points are and what changes would actually make a positive difference to these.
Samantha also took part in a panel session. Embracing the Future of Lab Automation: Streamlining Life Science Discovery, Research & Development with Disruptive Technology: Accelerated digital transformation is happening within pharma and biotech labs as organisations embrace automation, robotics, and digital tools. This panel discussion will provide tips to unlock value from data-led, technology-supported scientific environments. Our panellists will reflect on the progress made, common challenges faced, and how we can maintain momentum with lab innovation to create smart, connected, labs of the future.
- Moderator: Donna Francis, Business Transformation Consultant, BioPhorum
- Ilaria Ferlenghi, Associate Director, Head of Structural Microscopy, GSK
- Oliver de Peyer, PhD, Csci, Automation Scientist, MeiraGTx
- Andrew Davies, Associate Director, Product Management, Software and Analytics, Charles River Laboratories
- Samantha Pearman-Kanza, PhD, Senior Enterprise Fellow, Physical Sciences Data Infrastructure (PSDI), University of Southampton
- Daniel Juchli, Chief Technical Officer (CTO), SiLA Consortium
The panel session went by in a whirl, with similarly themed discussions about the challenges facing our community and delving down into why we actually need to care about this in the first place. Ultimately we are all looking to produce scientific research and data that can be of use to the community and add to the body of scientific knowledge, and in order to achieve this we need to ensure that our research can be re-used, replicated, reproduced and repurposed as appropriate, whether that is to the wider community through publication in areas such as academia, or in industrial settings where information will need to be shared with colleagues even if not all of it is meant for public consumption. The panel discussed the importance of establishing a common vocabulary, both in terms of data consistency and ensuring that everyone is talking about the same thing, and the vital role that change management will play in helping us move forward. As ultimately, we have a lot of data and technology already (even if not all of it is in a form that is currently useful) but if we don’t change how we operate, then we will continue to face the same challenges. This is arguably more of a human endeavour than a technological one at this point. However, to conclude on a more positive note, if we are the problem, then ultimately we can be the solution, and we have both the power and capability to make the changes required.
We would like to thank all the organisers of the Future Labs, Automation & Technology Summit Europe 2023.
You can find the proceedings of this event online: https://www.amg-world.co.uk/future-labs-europe/agenda/
If any of these topics resonate with you and you want to discuss them please get in touch 🙂