Before they are put to use, all substances need to be tested to ensure they are harmless and thereby avoid intolerances, for example. It's a process that takes a lot of time and effort and poses huge challenges, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and startups. Through Cellshare, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA is looking to help these companies avoid the staggering costs involved in investing in and maintaining an automated infrastructure.
Cellshare is a cloud lab designed to give users round-the-clock access to cell-based processes. All tests can be defined through a web-based interface and, once an order has been placed, are conducted in an automated process on the Cellshare infrastructure. Results data is provided in close to real time on the cloud platform known as Virtual Fort Knox, which has also been jointly developed by the Fraunhofer IPA. What's more, an evaluation or graphic depiction of data helps the user compare a range of tests directly, for example. And, staying with the theme of standardization, additional tests on the platform can also be conducted under identical test conditions. “"This ensures data can be reproduced and compared to a very high standard," explains Moriz Walter, the project manager for Cellshare at the Fraunhofer IPA. "Suppliers and analysis software can also be integrated within Virtual Fort Knox, similar to the approach used in an app store. This gives customers the opportunity to conduct evaluations using familiar materials and/or commercially available analysis tools." Along with a number of other German companies, American businesses are also working on similar concepts. "There is certainly a demand in industry,” says Walter, whose team is currently working on the finishing touches for the Cellshare configurator so that it can be tested with potential customers in the near future. In the IPA's explanatory video series "Zukunftsforscher trifft Zukunftsforschung" (Future researcher meets future research), physicist, author and cabaret artist Vince Ebert offers a simple breakdown of what companies can expect. Here's how he sums it all up - "It's like a soccer match, with the ball passing back and forth between players. In my next life, I'm coming back as a lab automation technician, not a physicist!"