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Lab Automation: Driving or Hindering Innovation in the Lab?

There have been countless debates in life sciences on whether lab automation is a conduit for innovation or whether it acts as a barrier to creativity.  

Thomas Edison once remarked that “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”  Those that believe lab automation does not support creativity, tend to subscribe to such a notion.  There may well be merit in the saying but given that it was said an awfully long time ago, there are some doubts that Edison would have said as much especially when taking into account technological advances and how they have helped in all aspects of our daily lives.

Technological Advances & its Impact On Our Time

Today, we can do our banking online without the need to go into a branch.  We can shop for pretty much anything and have it delivered to our doorstep.  We can order food/coffee beforehand and avoid any queues.  The list is endless.  All of these advances have allowed us to shed a little less perspiration and save us time.

Time is perhaps our most valuable commodity.  Technological advances in the lab allow for time to be saved and allow us to not exhaust ourselves on tedious, monotonous tasks.  Rather, lab automation permits time to be used for value adding activities.  

The Innovation Process

There are multiple value adding activities scientists can undertake in the lab.  One such activity is thinking time and in particular, the innovation process.  There is a fallacy in the belief that somehow – rather miraculously – that innovation comes about suddenly like a bolt of lightning.  James Clear notes that “creative thinking is not about generating something new from a blank slate, but rather about taking what is already present and combining those bits and pieces in a way that has not been done previously.”

In other words, it takes effort.  It requires analysis, examination and even debate.  It can be messy.  It most certainly means that scientists need to have thinking time.  How can they be innovative if they are spending hours on end pipetting or doing manual DNA extractions?  As such, lab automation augments their efforts and actually allows for a better return on investment of their time.  Gone are the monotonous tasks taking up valuable tasks and instead, we have the cognitive potential of scientists being exercised in the right way.

Automation Supports Creativity

Automation therefore supports innovation in the lab.  There is no question that even labs focused on manual activities can be innovative.  Of course they can.  We are merely making the point that automation can facilitate the creativity process and even allow for scientists to get a head start in that regard.

It is important to note that even automating a single workflow can have a profound positive impact on innovation.  What tasks are you undertaking that are highly repetitive, time-consuming and repetitive.  More often than not, such tasks are prime for automation.  Reach out to us to discuss how automation can help you be more innovative in your lab.

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