Hannover, Germany. After four years of pandemic-related hiatus, the trade show celebrated its successful comeback this year. Well-attended forums, brisk traffic at the smartLAB and an upbeat mood among exhibitors and visitors added up to a vibrant 3-day event in hall 19/20.

“Over the last few years, our exhibitors have developed many innovative products and exciting technologies around the smart lab. Especially in the important fields of digitization and artificial intelligence, as well as sustainability," explained Carola Triebsch, Project Director of LABVOLUTION at Deutsche Messe AG. For anyone keen on experiencing the latest in lab technology, LABVOLUTION was the place to be.

Increase in smart equipment and technologies

Given the advent of automation and the widespread deployment of sensors and interconnected equipment, containers, instruments and equipment are becoming smarter. The portfolio of products presented at LABVOLUTION was as diverse as the laboratories in which the devices are used. Ranging from pipetting robots and digital microscopy to cherry pit-sized micro sensor technology used for mobile measurement in liquid bioreactors.

Tablets and smartphones are increasingly used as operating and control units, one example being the GeneExplorer 48/48 Gradient thermal cycler from Biozym Scientific. Apps and software adapted to the highly specialized devices are designed to expand and facilitate control and monitoring via tablet and smartphone. In addition to its latest autoclaves, Systec also showcased the new Connect Documentation System (DS), which is also available free of charge as an app to enable remote monitoring. Düperthal presented Düperthal connect, a device-app combination for intelligent warehouse management.

First steps towards digitization

Documentation and evaluation are still performed manually in many laboratories. Time-consuming and error-prone paper-based workflows are the order of the day. Decision-makers and users who want to take the first step towards digitization and prepare their laboratories to successfully face challenges in the digital age used the LIMS & Software Area to obtain an overview of the latest developments in the field of laboratory software.

"Once you take stock of the data in an average mid-sized laboratory, you quickly realize that laboratory data is heterogeneous, individual and tends to be rarely used," explained Konrad M. Wagner, Managing Director of LDB Labordatenbank GmbH. Data enters and leaves the lab in many ways. IT systems such as ERPs, robots or device and measurement data represent but a small fraction of the data. Considerably more data originates from customers, clients and external laboratories or is induced by quality management - and has to return to these sources. Many visitors were well aware of this situation and used the LABVOLUTION to get in touch with potential suppliers. "We were approached not only by new customers but also by many existing clients and companies with whom we had demos before. At LABVOLUTION, we managed to accomplish something that had been impossible in the previous three years due to the pandemic in just three days," revealed Wagner.

Structure, interpret, react – mastering vast amounts of data

Automation and digitization are generating enormous amounts of data. Industry 4.0 already demonstrates how the obtained data can be used effectively: Data is connected in order to monitor processes and to recognize trends, which allows reacting to changes early on. How these advantages can be transferred to laboratories alike was demonstrated during LABVOLUTION.

"We want to use AI and ML technologies to convert complex biotechnological process development data into information, enabling computers to plan, perform and optimize experiments independently", explained Dr. Marie Therese Schermeyer of KIWI-biolab of the Technische Universität Berlin. Eventually, AI will establish itself in laboratories across the board to combine and analyze large amounts of data in no time and develop strategies based on this information – faster than any human would ever be able to.

Sustainable developments in laboratories

The first LAB Sustainability Summit was all about sustainability and addressed topics such as the economical use of resources, reduction of CO₂ emissions, as well as sustainable technologies and innovations in the laboratory and in the life sciences. The sustainable focus was also reflected in the product portfolio of this year's exhibitors.

The start-up Green Elephant Biotech displayed its patented cell cultivation system made of biopolymers. Labcon exhibited, among other things, laboratory disposables made from bioplastics and recycled materials. In addition, the company's intern recycling program is said to ensure that no plastic waste is generated during the production.

Grenova presented, among other things, a pipette tip washer, while Eppendorf showed its Centrifuge 5427 R with natural coolant, and the smart power plug from Essentim should make it possible to easily identify the energy consumption of laboratory equipment. Schuett-biotec presented the latest technology in sterilization with the schuett solaris. Unlike conventional inoculation loop sterilizers, Schuett's device is powered by electricity instead of gas - eliminating not only energy-intensive preheating, but also energy consumption between annealing processes.

Sustainable and smart developments like these are creating curiosity about the next LABVOLUTION, which will take place from 20 to 22 May 2025 at the exhibition grounds in Hannover, Germany.