Compact, efficient and informative: the premiere of smartLAB connects ended on Wednesday with a positive response. The two-day LABVOLUTION digital conference brought together more than 60 international experts from science, industry and politics to discuss new solutions and process technologies for the laboratory and life sciences sector. More than 700 participants took the opportunity to take part in knowledge transfer and network with the laboratory industry. The presentations and discussions gave important impetus to the dialogue on the key topics of digitalization, sustainability and pandemics. The online event was hosted in place of the LABVOLUTION laboratory technology fair, which had to be cancelled due to the developments surrounding Covid-19.

"We are very pleased that so many highly qualified speakers and participants followed our digital alternative concept and exchanged ideas on the online platform," said Bernd Heinold, project manager smartLAB connects. "In the future, we will therefore also offer a digital conference in addition to the classic LABVOLUTION trade fair forma."

In the lectures and talk rounds, the speakers dealt in particular with the topics of new paths for drug/vaccine development, laboratory automation and digitalisation, as well as sustainability in laboratories and life science companies. Further education and training for technical employees and laboratory assistants was also on the agenda.

New paths for active substance/vaccine development

A highlight of the digital conference was the block of lectures by acatech - German Academy of Science and Engineering, which offered exciting topics on active substance/vaccine development, production and logistics. "Corona as a driver for new paths in active ingredient development and production in Europe" was the general headline of the lectures by Dr. Stefan Oschmann, Vice President at acatech and former CEO of Merck, Prof. Dr. Oscar-Werner Reif from Sartorius, Dr. Frank Lammers from Sanofi Aventis, Dr. Barbara Holtz from Dassault Systèmes and Prof. Dr. Nils Hoppe from Leibniz Universität Hannover.

They discussed lessons learned from the pandemic and identified fields of action for the future. Host Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheper, spokesperson of the acatech Biotechnology Topic Network, summarized: "The biotech industry has impressively demonstrated what it is capable of in the Corona pandemic".

Equally interesting was the science symposium organized by BIOspektrum and the Association for General and Applied Microbiology (VAAM), the German Society for Toxicology (GT) and the Society for Genetics (GfG). The agenda included current approaches to vaccines and the use of artificial intelligence in pandemics.

What are the lessons from the pandemic? What impact will they have on research and industry? These questions were addressed by Dr Thorsten Teutenberg, Division Director, Institute for Energy and Environmental Technology e. V. (IUTA) e.V., Prof. Dr. Thomas Bosch, Director of the Zoological Institute, University of Kiel, and Dr. Harald Meyer, Managing Director, YMC Europe, during a panel discussion organized by Wiley.

Laboratory automation and digitalization

Under the umbrella of smartLAB connects, the AnalytikTag of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Technology e. V. (IUTA) also took place. Everything there revolved around "Flexible laboratory automation and digitalization". A panel discussion with experts on the topic of "Standards and interfaces: how far away are we from the laboratory of the future?

The initiative link_the_lab, which was newly founded just a few months ago, was integrated into the conference programme of smartLAB connects on the first day of the event. As part of a live demonstration from labforward's new Connectivity Space in Berlin, users were given an interactive tour of the smart lab. Exciting highlights included wirelessly linked multi-sensor technology, Al-controlled collaborative robotics, devices from different manufacturers that communicate with each other, and workflow management. Intelligent hazardous materials management and insights into working with SiLA were also discussed.

Sustainability in laboratories and life sciences companies

The Sustainability Day showed the wide range of sustainability topics in the life sciences sector. "In many presentations, solutions were presented on how, for example, plastic consumption can be reduced or methods optimized in terms of lower resource consumption," said Dr. Kerstin Hermuth-Kleinschmidt, NIUB Sustainability Consulting. "However, the challenges that users and companies have to face also became clear - and here it was emphasized how important knowledge (exchange) and cooperation are in order to develop solutions together. This also shows how important new formats like the smartLABconnects are to serve as an exchange, knowledge and information platform for the laboratory and life sciences sector."

Continuing education and training for technical employees and laboratory assistants

Further education and training was the central theme of the activities of the Gläsernes Labor Akademie from Berlin, which organizes digital Laboratory 4.0 workshops for technical employees and laboratory technicians in the life sciences. The programme, which focused on digitalization, automation and miniaturization, offered sessions on topics such as "Paperless research documentation with the electronic lab book" or "Next Generation Sequencing".

Traditionally, the Wissenschaftlerkreis Grüne Gentechnik e. V. was featured, this time with a session on genome editing. Among others, Dr. Tobias Brügmann from the Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics (vTI), Prof. Dr. Christian Jung from the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel and Prof. Dr. Klaus Jany (WGG) reported on the possibilities of genome editing to meet future challenges in plant breeding and illustrated corresponding objectives with concrete projects.

The next LABVOLUTION will be held from 9 to 11 May 2023 at the Hannover Exhibition Centre.