At the Jülich Research Center (FZ Jülich), the study group "Bioprocesses and Bioanalytics" has developed new processes for the production of metabolites, intermediates and proteins with the aid of microbial systems. R&D projects in industrial biotechnology typically suffer from insufficient capacity in the area of microbial cultivation.

But the Jülich research team found a way round this – by developing an automated and miniaturized cultivation platform. Development work began back in 2008, when a prototype laboratory robotics environment was created. In the meantime, the third such set-up is now up and running. The impact has been enormous: using a traditional, bench-top parallel bioreactor plant, a technician at the Jülich Research Center can produce two to four cultures a week.

With the aid of the new platform developed in-house, it is now possible to produce, and automatically analyze, approx. 48 cultures in the same time – even at less cost and effort than before. The independent jury deemed this optimization solution for the lab worthy of first place.

"This is an exemplary piece of development work by FZ Jülich. What we have here is a highly useful system for strain development."

Second prize was awarded to the Swiss Interlabor Belp for its "PicWatch" software, which helps lab workers to match images accurately to experiments. And third place went to the team working on the APRONA project, who have developed a twin-arm robotic system for the fully automated production of nanoparticles. The APRONA cluster consists of four project partners: Goldfuß engineering GmbH, Biametrics GmbH and BioTeSys GmbH, as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC), which acts as a go-between within the group. The coordinator of this joint project is BioRegio STERN Management GmbH.

Apart from the certificate, the winner and runners-up were also awarded monetary prizes that are likewise aimed at making things run more smoothly in the laboratory.

All three will be benefitting from consultancy services and training courses specifically designed for laboratory workers, as provided by LABVOLUTION AWARD partner Geniu – FZ Jülich (valued at €10,000), Interlabor Belp (valued at €2,500) and the APRONA cluster (valued at €1,000).