REVIEW: 8th Annual Smartlabs Exchange

Sheraz Gul

This was the second opportunity I have had to attend the Annual Smartlab Exchange, the first one being the 7th Annual Smartlab Exchange in 2012 that was held in Brussels where I was a participant and speaker. This event was supported by a set of highly competent chair-people, expert speakers from a range of sectors, think-tank panellists and solution providers.

The main themes of the 8th Annual Smartlab Exchange were the future of lab informatics, implementing solutions to improve efficiency, data integration and smart knowledge sharing, enabling a more efficient lab and big data - implications and opportunities. It was particularly noteworthy that IT solutions are being sought by an increasingly diverse range and number of organisations (small and large) and this was clearly highlighted by some of the speakers which I summarise below.

The Future of Lab Informatics
Talks in this theme were given by Peter Boogaard (Industrial Lab Automation), Michael Engels (Grünenthal GmbH), Friedrich Hübner (OSTHUS), Nick Townsend (Labware), Alain Franbourg (L’Oreal), Ferdinando Peretto (DiaSorin) and Markus Ekman (VTT).

The focus in this session was primarily on how to set up IT strategies across organisations and that it is vital to get buy-in from all interested parties in order to ensure smooth implementation and take-up by all stake-holders bearing in mind the current climate in which financial resources are limited.
There was a subsequent panel discussion that provided insight into (1) implementing mobile devices within organisations, (2) the concept of ‘Big Data’ and how to overcome associated challenges, (3) data sharing strategies using the cloud that are secure yet efficient and (4) making a seamless transition between IT and business remits and ways to further reduce operating costs.
Implementing Solutions to Improve Efficiency

Talks in this theme were given by Friedrich Hübner (OSTHUS) and Claudio Mingozzi (Lyondell Basell).

This session included an interesting discussion relating to the management and archiving of analytical data. It was evident that significant foresight is required when undertaking these activities and that standardised storage systems can be effectively exploited for this purpose.
Data Integration and Smart Knowledge Sharing

Talks in this theme were given by Jonas Hagner (Winwind), Jan Geurts (Friesland Campina) and Marco de Groot (DSM).

In this session, talks from large organisations that many of the audience might not have come across before (core expertises being wind energy, food and materials) gave excellent talks on how they use various IT solutions. Specifically, these included how IT solutions were used to support management, control product related data (documents, CAD drawings, simulations, testing, data and maintenance) and curation of information on milk components, products and processes.
Enabling a More Efficient Lab

Talks in this theme were given by John Wise (Pistoia Alliance), Michael Shanler (Gartner), Pekka Lehtonen (Alko), Arnaud Sartre (Pfizer) and Gerhard Noelken (Pfizer).

This session was chaired by John Wise and in his introduction he shed light on the current challenges facing the drug discovery industry. The subsequent talk in this session from Pekka Lehtonen discussed the IT infrastructure his organisation has in place for a variety of tasks including sample management, recording results from the testing of a vast number of alcohol containing products using a home-made LIMS as well as a commercial IT solution. Michael Shanler gave an excellent talk that covered in detail the trends that are likely to impact laboratory informatics such as outsourcing and cloud technologies.
Big Data: Implications & Opportunities

Talks in this theme were given by Daniela Jansen (Waters), John Bowling (General Dynamics UK), Gernot Goeller (Bayer Health Care) and Mollie Shields Uehling (SAFE-BioPharma Association).

During this session, talks were given by solution providers as well as customers. Key points to note included the importance of data storage, retrieval, retention and implementation of IT solutions, mobile devices and security issues using mobile computing and the cloud.

This meeting shed a considerable amount of light upon the current trends and potential future directions of the IT landscape. It also provided a valuable forum to learn how cutting edge IT solutions are being implemented by a diverse range of organisations as well as providing the opportunity to connect with people with a common goal. I look forward to attending a forthcoming Smartlab Exchange and take this opportunity to thank Ash Rashid and Lucy Morgan from IQPC for the excellent support during the meeting.
Dr Sheraz Gul, Vice President & Head of Biology, European ScreeningPort GmbH, Schnackenburgallee 114, D-22525 Hamburg, Germany; email: