Evolving Workforces

Is Your Lab Driving Better Science?

09 Aug 2022 5 Minute Read

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CBRE’s Life Sciences Integrated Lab Solutions Sector recently hosted a FOCUS Forum, “Is Your Lab Driving Better Science?” Clients and CBRE professionals attended the virtual event, where experts shared best practices and solutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness of laboratory environments.

Key takeaways include:

  • Utilization data remain elusive for a lot of clients but new technologies and approaches are available to measure the space use of both people and equipment.
  • Labs adopting hybrid work models face the challenge of how to enable science while allowing greater in-lab vs. in-home work flexibility. The industry has seen increased interest in services and robotic automation to support these growing expectations. Some labs are investing in both the talent and equipment to support this new work model and experimenting with VR technology that can connect the in-lab scientist with colleagues and lab coordinators working elsewhere.
  • Sharing lab space will drive innovation and better collaboration but logistics and data measurement elude many companies and clients. Social network analysis can show how companies that have adopted shared environments are seeing those interactions materially increasing among lab teams.

Life Sciences Trends & Insights

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Paul Janssenswillen, CBRE's Head of Scientific Projects, covered recent trends in workplace strategy and industry insights, including a roadmap of where the laboratory came from and where it is going. Most companies now recognize a path where scientists can control laboratory equipment from anywhere in the network and beyond. As the lab roadmap progresses from the 1990s to the future, we expect to see increased collaboration taking place between internal and external forces.

Laboratory Performance Measurement

Data from the event’s live polling indicate that clients are primarily using assigned headcount and laboratory equipment utilization to measure the performance of their laboratories, followed closely by operating costs.

Which of these do you use to measure the performance of your laboratory?

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Note: The FOCUS Forum event poll surveyed 14 attendees from 12 companies.

Though utilization may normally be around 25%-30% in a day, one client stated that key stakeholders within their organization would like to see utilization over 50%, preferably closer to 75% or 80%. While utilization can be hard to quantify, some clients are using anecdotal evidence rather than real-time measurement of people in laboratory space. Basic utilization monitoring with snapshots of the number of data files that have been acquired can improve the accuracy of these numbers. One client reported that their organization was looking for 50% of their labs to be in use; however, no measures or sensors were in place to track occupancy besides anecdotal walkthroughs. Measuring real-time occupancy can be difficult because of the intermittent nature of lab work. 

Key Trends in the Near to Mid-Term Future

ILS_FF_Figure-03Results from the event’s live polling indicate that technology around automation and data sharing practices are some of the key trends that will have the greatest effect on laboratories in the next 3-5 years. Sustainability and reaching net-zero carbon are also top of mind. CRO growth and academic universities are expected to kick start research that will affect the way laboratories do business moving forward. Talent is another challenge that companies are facing, both recruiting and retaining key scientists. Although the life sciences markets have garnered huge investments, there is a scarcity of talent to maintain the number of R&D and scientists doing the work. Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the talent shortage has prompted many companies to move to more diverse geographical locations to attract talent—whether in incubators or labs—sometimes creating disparate setups. CBRE’s 2022 Life Sciences Research Talent report highlights key trends such as the pace of industry growth, where research talent is located and growing and the best U.S. markets for emerging talent.

Technology and Allocation of Time Impact Scientists Location

Data from live polling indicate that clients believe their scientists will spend more time working from home in the next 5-10 years. This trend picked up amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continues due to technologies (such as AR/VR, mobile apps, subscription services, etc.) put in place that enable scientists to foster discovery outside of the lab. Working from the lab will remain a constant, though scientists will spend different time in the laboratory—perhaps in different time slots than they normally do, splitting their day between the home, office and laboratory. To build company culture and collaboration, some companies may mandate team days, where various project and discipline teams work together in the lab on the same days and times.

Innovating High-Quality Science

Clients also indicate that shared labs and prototype equipment are being used to free up scientists’ time and deliver more high-quality science. Other key actions recommended to innovate better science include:

  • Increase the number of research publications prepared jointly with research partners.
  • Increase the number of unpaid interns who use the company space.
  • Break down the siloed nature of laboratories and share space between teams, groups, projects, etc. to facilitate collaboration. Organizations may move away from small lab spaces to large rooms with fewer doors to walk through, enabling scientists to see other R&D collaborators easily. 
  • Automate repetitive tasks and subscription ordering to save scientists’ time.
  • Use third parties as a service to assist in making reproducible experiments.

Related Insight

  • Report | Evolving Workforces

    Life Sciences Research Talent 2022

    June 13, 2022

    Life sciences firms need more research talent to sustain the industry’s rapid growth. Discover top and emerging U.S. markets, salary and cost trends and more.

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