Navigating change successfully in the lab?

Change is both inevitable and constant in the modern lab – evolving regulatory requirements demand greater analytical sensitivity or more rigorous reporting; new instruments are launched to tackle increasing analytical problems faced by scientists; and digital transformation is now considered a necessary step for labs processing and communicating huge amounts of data between systems and software.

Despite its importance, change can be daunting for scientists. Change management is crucial to implementing meaningful and successful change, yet it is often neglected or not applied in full across the lab.

Our infographic highlights the key considerations labs should take when embarking on change, and how to ensure that change is managed successfully across all facets of the lab environment.

Scimcon describes key change management factors for lab managers to consider when undertaking an informatics software implementation.

For more recommendations about how to successfully manage change in an informatics software project, visit our blog: Breaking the change management mould – leading successful laboratory information system projects and digital transformations – Scimcon

Breaking the change management mould – leading successful laboratory information system projects and digital transformations?

Laboratory-based organisations have consistently undergone change, whether provisioning new analytical techniques, instrumentation, information system implementations, or incorporating new regulatory requirements. This is especially true today, when we are undertaking initiatives such as digital transformation and the introduction of AI/ML. In fact, one definition of transformation is ‘a radical change’.

What’s clear is that change is constant. However, managing change effectively is essential to success when undergoing these types of projects. Well-run lab informatics projects manage change within the software project lifecycle. Examples of project change include adjusting functional scope; raising change requests as functionality is demonstrated; and variation of costs. Yet, one key area of change is often neglected.

The problem arises when change management for lab informatics projects focuses solely on the technical delivery of the software. In these cases, very little effort is allocated to the change that will need to occur within the laboratory to accommodate the new system. If lab change management is considered, it is often dealt with ad-hoc and separately from the software delivery part of the project, leading to misalignment, misunderstanding, and missed timelines.

75% of the lab is indifferent to your project.

Lab Manager reports that in a typical change environment, 25% of staff will be early adopters, 25% will actively resist change, and about 50% will be ‘on the fence’ in the early stages.1

These statistics are backed up by experience. Scimcon is often called in to resolve issues within ‘in-flight’ informatics projects. All too often, the route cause analysis reveals the lab community only understood the true impact of the new system too late to adopt it, adapt lab workflow, and change procedures. Rectifying the issues after the fact is seldom quick or low-cost.

Informatics projects don’t operate in a vacuum.

Informatics software does not function in isolation, so change management needs to consider the physical working procedures, workflows, SOPs, job roles, quality system, and other areas that will be impacted within the laboratory.

For example, the implementation of a new LIMS could trigger changes such as:

Given that a lab informatics project will generate a large number of change items similar to the above examples, they must be managed appropriately.

In many respects, these changes are very similar to a system’s user requirements, except they are related to the lab processes as opposed to software functionality. With this in mind, they need to be handled in a similar fashion. Create a team with a project lead and subject matter experts who represent the laboratory. The lab change team should be tasked with actively gathering and maintaining the backlog of change items throughout the project life cycle. Each change should be assessed for impact and priority, added to the change management plan, and allocated to team members to be actioned.

Planning for change starts early.

Before making any significant lab Informatics investment within an organisation, it is likely a business case will be required. If you are serious about managing all aspects of change this is where you should begin. Business cases generally do an excellent job of covering benefits, costs, and ROI – however, change management, specifically within the physical lab, is often not called out in terms of impact, approach or importantly the resources and associated costs.

Not highlighting the lab change management process, resources and costs at this stage will make it considerably more difficult for change management to become embedded in your project at a later stage.

Benefits of effective change management.

The benefits of effectively integrating laboratory change management alongside traditional change management for lab informatics project cannot be ignored. New systems can get up and running faster, and can, importantly, deliver improved lab processes and be met with enthusiasm rather than reluctance, scepticism, or apprehension.

Scimcon consultants are on-hand to support lab leaders overseeing change. As many of our consultants have lab experience themselves, they have seen first-hand the impact of change in the lab, and can provide in-depth knowledge on how to ensure success.

For more information about how Scimcon can support your next big project, contact us.

References:

  1. ‘A Guide to Successful Change Management’ Lab Manager, https://www.labmanager.com/a-guide-to-successful-change-management-27457 [accessed 02/11/23]
Digital Transformation in the lab: where to begin??

Digital transformation is not a new concept, it is just expanding the use of technology as it advances. Today’s laboratory users expect a certain level of usability and synchronicity. After all, in other aspects of their daily lives they are accustomed to having, for example, a seamless digital shopping experience via Amazon.

So, with demand for digital transformation coming from the lab users themselves, and often from the organisation, establishing what it really means to you and what’s achievable, as well as where you are already on the path to digital transformation, is a useful starting point.

What is digital transformation in the lab?

Digital transformation requires constantly improving the environment and the platforms in the lab to give the scientists the best tools possible and make their lives easier. It’s not a single project or something that will be completed in a year, or two.

For some organisations, the first step on their digital transformation might be putting in a new LIMS or ELN – which drastically improves their operations, but could be a huge undertaking depending on the scale of the organisation and the legacy infrastructure. For others, it might be establishing the tools and connections to enable the online monitoring of instrument status, automatic ordering of consumables, reserving instrument time and auto-tracking utilisation, for example. Plus, there are many iterations in between.

What’s important for any lab embarking on, or evolving, a digital transformation journey, is to determine where they are, what their goals are and what’s achievable.

How Scimcon can help

We understand the scale of the digital transformation challenge, as well as what is needed to overcome limitations and ensure improvements are made. Our team of experienced consultants – scientists themselves – are ideally placed to help you define and progress your digital transformation journey.

Efforts will continue in the coming years to achieve a truly digital laboratory. However, this will not be a linear journey. Advancements are constantly emerging and the latest technology will build upon the success of others, meaning the ‘latest thing’ is always evolving. Navigating this process successfully will allow laboratories to achieve increased productivity and optimised workflows – giving scientists back more time to spend on getting results.  

Advancing your digital transformation journey can be a challenge, but, if done well, can transform your lab and its results. Through a wealth of experience in this area, Scimcon can help you to identify your digital transformation goals and help make them a reality in the short, medium, and long term.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your digital transformation journey.

Introducing Joscelin Smith: an insight into Scimcon’s graduate recruitment scheme?

Earlier this year, Scimcon announced the launch of a new Graduate Recruitment Programme, aiming to attract new talent to our team. We’ve partnered with Sanctuary Graduates, a recruitment agency specialising in sourcing talented graduates for suitable roles within a variety of industries.

Joscelin Smith is one of our newest recruits, and Scimcon’s first graduate consultant to join us through the programme. We sat down with Joscelin to discuss her background, what led her to Scimcon, and what her experience has been like as a graduate joining the Scimcon team.

Can you tell us about your background and what interested you about Scimcon?

Science has always been a passion of mine, so after studying Biochemistry at Bristol University, I went on to work as a Research Assistant at Cambridge University, where I focused on Immunology. I then travelled to Auckland, to complete my PhD on the cardiac nervous system.

It was during this time that I started experimenting with software and coding, which really piqued my interest. This shifted my career trajectory towards a role that incorporated both science and technology, which is of course something I’ve been able to explore working at Scimcon.

How did you find your experience with Sanctuary Graduates?

I had a good idea of the type of role I was after, so after talking to and sending my CV to Sanctuary Graduates, the team put me in touch with Scimcon, who really matched what I was looking for. The interview was quickly set up, and the whole process was very smooth and painless, with a frequent channel of dialogue and updates from the Sanctuary end.

How would you describe your role at Scimcon?

As a Graduate Information Systems Consultant, a large part of my role is helping clients implement various systems and software, such as SDMS and LIMS. I also help clients to problem-solve and alleviate any issues they are having with this process. I have been working in this role for around 6 months, which has mostly been a training period so far, shadowing multiple people across various roles. This has included working with Geoff, Scimcon’s Co-Founder and Principle Consultant, on a digital transformation strategy day, during the early stages of our work with a new client. I found this fascinating as it showed me how Scimcon can add real strategic value to clients. I have also worked with our Informatics Project Manager Lynda Weller, as well as Jon Fielding – one of the Project leads here at Scimcon. Being able to work with different colleagues has been very interesting and provided extremely useful insights into the role, as well as Scimcon in general.

What do you enjoy most about working at Scimcon?

The prospect of problem-solving first attracted me to this role, and being involved in the resolution of a particular issue for a client has been really rewarding so far. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but the project management has also emerged as a really enjoyable aspect of the job. Having worked in the lab myself, I really see the value in Scimcon’s mission to help make laboratory workflows more efficient.

As I’m familiar with a lot of the systems we work on, I can translate my experience in the lab to my role at Scimcon, working on design and implementation.

I am finding it incredibly fulfilling working for a company which is trying to bridge that gap and give more time back to scientists. I believe this process is invaluable and is something I am proud to be working on.

What do you hope to achieve at Scimcon?

My previous lab experience was helpful to evaluate different career paths, and ultimately I am pleased that it has led me to my role as a Graduate Information Systems Consultant for Scimcon. I am really looking forward to advancing my career within the company and in the short term I am hoping to gain more exposure to different projects and the different systems we work with.

To read more about how Sanctuary Graduates are helping to provide Scimcon with talented candidates to add to our expertise in data informatics, read our previous blog.

Project or Program? Why adapting your approach and working practices makes the difference.?

By Geoff Parker and Paul McTurk

Having worked on more than one hundred information system projects and programs over the last 20+ years, for lab-based organisations of all shapes and sizes, we know that people can sometimes confuse the two. It’s an easy mistake to make! However, there are very clear differences between a project and a program and, as we have demonstrated to our clients many times, handling each in the correct way can have a big impact on overall success.

What is a project vs. a program?

Projects are typically well-defined, as they deliver a well-understood, specific goal or outcome, within a specified timeline: e.g: implementing a new information system or service within a laboratory. There is usually a distinct team and a clear route from start to completion.

A program involves doing things that deliver a strategy or initiative – or a number of strategy points or initiatives – and is less easy to define, compared to a project. For example, a program might be put in place to respond to a challenge such as: ‘We want to make the lab 30% more efficient.’ There might be (and usually are) projects underneath this, which could include ‘Specific enhancements to current information systems’, ‘Good lab practice training’, ‘Lab supply chain improvement’, etc. Programs can span several months, or even years, and therefore require strategic oversight, a lot of iteration and the involvement of many stakeholders.  

Projects are managed through project management methodologies such as PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2), and Gantt charts are often employed to map out how you will get from A to B and in what timeframe. At a program level, Gantt charts rapidly become overly complicated and you’re more likely to see a roadmap with aims and targets, but without the detail and structure of a project plan.

So why does this matter? It might be tempting to replicate how you plan and lead a project when thinking about a program. But it’s going to be impossible to scale and communicate effectively using the same approaches.

Having helped many lab-based organisations to run informatics projects and programs, we share some of our insights on how to lead, communicate, manage risk and account for human factors, when planning and rolling out both projects and programs.

1. Leadership

Program leaders require strategic thinking, flexibility, excellent communication and stakeholder management, strong delegation, and empowerment skills, as well as effective team and resource management, among many other attributes.

While project managers also need many of these skills, their focus is much more task and delivery-focused. In short, they prioritise everything related to ‘getting the job done’, on time and within budget.

Program leaders have a much wider remit, from defining the strategic direction and focus, to creating a structure under which the ‘child’ projects will operate, managing ‘child’ project risks that could impact other ‘child’ projects, or the program as a whole. Program leaders are focused on achieving benefits, and strategic objectives that align with the organization’s vision.

2. Communication

Project communication is usually to a defined group of people on a regular basis, i.e. daily, weekly or monthly. Most people engaged in a project are involved to a similar degree and are very familiar with the details, so the level of information shared will be both quite granular and consistently consumed by all team members. Good communication within a project tends to be direct, detailed, and unfiltered.

For programs, where there may be hundreds of people involved with varying levels of engagement, cutting through the noise and providing updates that are impactful, relevant and easy to digest is key. Whereas ‘one size fits all’ may be suitable for a project, programs need to be communicated in various levels of detail, and, rather than relying solely on scheduled communication, benefit from participants ‘self-serving’ information.

Program leaders need to enable a shared awareness about what’s happening across the whole program, in an easily digestible format. A simple one-page graphic that shows the key milestones and summarises the roadmap can be effective and might be sufficient for some stakeholders. A program newsletter, outlining progress against key milestones and any major challenges or opportunities is another useful communication method. When sharing updates via tools such as Microsoft Teams, tagging stakeholders is a good way of ensuring your update attracts their attention.

Often Scimcon includes expert communications professionals within programs, who help determine the level of information sharing and recommend the best channels to use, as well as providing guidance on how to navigate organisational culture for the most effective program communication.

3. Risk management

Risk management is critical for both projects and programs.

Typically, within projects, risks are identified, investigated, and mitigated as the project progresses. The risks are listed and managed within a regularly updated risk log.

Once again, the scale and complexity of programs dictates a different approach. Rather than identifying risks as they become apparent, a proactive and systematic methodology is required.

A technique we have borrowed from product development methodologies, such as the Lean Startup framework is Riskiest Assumption Testing, often referred to as RAT.

RAT is an effective technique that ensures the program’s most critical assumptions are identified and adequately tested, both at the start of the program, and on an ongoing basis. For example, at the start, one of your riskiest assumptions is whether your team can work well together at all. This needs to be tested early. See “Human Factors” below.

Other examples of riskiest assumptions:

  1. Program objectives are well-defined, well understood and agreed.
  2. The lab and the wider organisation will accept the business change.
  3. There is sufficient budget for the program and the required ‘child’ projects.

RAT emphasizes rapid experimentation, learning from failures, and adapting mitigation strategies based on evidence.

4. Human factors

If a project team works well together, it might be tempting to think that larger teams can do the same. The difference between leading small teams of 10-20 people and teams that are much larger is significant.

Program delivery success is influenced by a variety of human factors that can impact the effectiveness and efficiency of the program and could easily justify a dedicated blog post.

These factors include team dynamics, motivation and morale, decision-making, conflict resolution, issue escalation and knowledge sharing.

Let’s look at one of these – issue escalation – in a little more detail.

Early escalation of issues is a key success factor in the on-time delivery of projects. When confronted with an issue, well-meaning team members can mistakenly believe it is their job to solve the problem quietly and report when the resolution is complete. Often however, this results in the potential problem only coming to the wider team’s attention days or possibly weeks later.

The escalation process should be multi-tiered (‘heads up’, ‘warning’ and ‘escalation’) and transparent within teams, so that it becomes second nature for individuals to share any concerns with the right people, at the appropriate time. Regular problem-solving sessions or informal team meetings where the only agenda point is discussing/brainstorming any concerns, no matter how small, is a good practice and something we do ourselves and advocate with clients!

The connected nature of the program and the ‘child’ projects within the program means that the likelihood of human factors affecting delivery increases and requires ongoing monitoring and proactive management.

Summary

Projects and programs may appear very similar in nature however due to programs’ scale and complexity we highly recommend you don’t attempt to lead them in the same manner as projects.

We have hopefully provided some tips and insight for how to take the right approach when planning, leading and implementing projects and programs. To ensure successful outcomes, project / program leaders should include the key aspects of leadership, communication, risk management and human factors in their project or program planning.

If you need help with your upcoming projects or programs, contact us.

Industry leader interviews: Pascale Charbonnel?

Our latest industry leader interview is with Pascale Charbonnel, who tells us about how SCTbio supports customers through the cell therapy manufacturing chain.

In this instalment of our industry leader series, we speak to Pascale Charbonnel, Chief Business Officer of SCTbio. Pascale tells us about the work of SCTbio, how they collaborate with biotech developers, and why they are a great choice for outsourcing cell and gene therapy (CGT) manufacture.

Tell us about SCTbio

SCTbio is a cell-based therapy and viral vector contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO). Originally part of the SOTIO group, we spun out in 2022 and operate a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility in Prague, Czech Republic. Recently, eureKING, a French special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, has signed an agreement to purchase full ownership interest in SCTbio, which will further bolster our position as a leading CDMO service provider.

As part of SOTIO group, we were developing our own cell and gene therapies for 13 years, so we have a lot of experience in manufacturing for clinical trials from phase I to phase III across multiple geographies. Given this expertise, customers trust us to guide them through the development process as they navigate the GMP world and clinical development.

What kind of customers do you support, and how do you support them?

Our target customers are mainly early-stage biotechnology companies, who typically outsource all their production needs. We are sometimes also used as an additional facility to absorb around 20-30% of the production needs for large Ph II / Ph III phases. Our main goal is to establish trust with customers right from the beginning, so we can then support them as the project progresses through later clinical phases. The average customer project takes about two years.

With our history in SOTIO, we can ensure GMP compliance for the full drug development life cycle as we have also faced some of those same hurdles associated with developing therapeutics. Our team understands the importance of saving time and costs, and maintaining momentum to ensure approvals run smoothly and that we can move onto the next clinical stage. We use this experience to create optimised development plans, which give customers the assurance that we can support them and hopefully go on this journey with them for many years to come.

How do you manage the data you generate for customers, and what formats do you report in?

We are still very much in a mixed model – so we have turned to electronic systems in some cases, but we do still have paper-based approaches too. It’s useful to have both, as it means we can tailor our approach depending on customer requirements. We’ve built our own data management system, which has been developed specifically to fit our operation here – so while there is scope for us to move to a full digital system, it will take time and our customers’ current requirements do not warrant that.

When it comes to customer data, we typically start by storing the raw data in a validated platform which we can then manage regularly. We then export it to the customer in whatever format they wish. As each customer’s requirements differ greatly, there’s no need for us to move to full digital systems yet, but it’s definitely something we’re bearing in mind for the future.

What does a typical audit look like, and how do you ensure success?

Since last year, we’ve run four audits – three by customers, one by a regulatory body. They all follow a similar process, where we will receive a request or announcement about two weeks in advance that an auditor is going to visit, and they usually request specific documentation which of course we already have to hand. During the day they will look at everything in our facility, speak to some of our technical staff, and then make a report outlining any observations.

GMP culture is very deeply rooted in our company, to the point where our recent regulatory audit returned no observations at all! While this shows everything was as expected, our customers were particularly impressed. One of our customers came back to us following their audit to say that they can see we go above and beyond the standard for GMP, and that our team is clearly well organised and collaborative.

How does SCTbio stand out as a CDMO?

One thing I think really makes us special is our people. We are a team of about 80 people, many of whom have been with us since the inception of SOTIO, and the staff turnover rate is very low indeed. It gives our customers a great deal of assurance that as well as having far-reaching experience in developing drugs and a deeply rooted GMP culture, our people are committed to our customers and get to know them and their needs.

What set us apart is our 13 years expertise in the CGT field and our flexibility to accommodate different sizes/stage of projects. We plan to stay very flexible, so that we can continue to take a bespoke approach to supporting our customers.

In addition, we offer a really wide range of services. We can collect the starting material, process it in our facility, release it under quality assurance / qualified person (QP/QA) and GMP conditions, and we have a logistical advantage as we’re based in central Europe, so close to a number of key markets. Being able to offer a full start-to-finish process in one place is quite unusual, so it gives us a strong advantage.

The recipe for success as a CDMO in my eyes is to have mutual trust and transparent communication with partners and customers, so with highly skilled people and low turnover, as well as the cost benefits of our location, our customers rely on us for consistency, reliability, and quality.

What do you think the future holds for cell and gene therapy?

The market has faced many challenges over the last few years, but we’re now starting to see an upturn. Funding is becoming available again, and we believe that ‘the good science’ will prevail. We’re excited to see what projects will come our way and to keep supporting customers to develop life-changing medicines.

Scimcon is proud to showcase CDMOs like SCTbio, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the company will grow over the coming years. To contribute to our industry leader blog series, or to find out more about how Scimcon supports organisation with lab informatics and data management solutions, contact us today.

Meet Scimcon: Steve Griffiths?

Profile

How long have you been involved with Scimcon, and what does your role entail?

I’ve worked with Scimcon as a Project Lead for around seven years now, but have worked alongside the team there for much longer throughout my career. My role involves a lot of problem solving for customers, bringing the ability to look at complex informatics projects in the early stages and plan where we want to be in the future. Working with Scimcon allows me to get the most out of my practical-minded approach to various informatics projects. There’s a diplomatic element to the role as well, making sure that customer expectations are met and providing business-to-technology translation for our customers. As someone who has worked on both the lab side, the vendor side and now in consultancy, I have experienced the entire project process from planning through to execution.

During my time with the company, I’ve learnt that it is vital to look at the wider picture when delivering informatics consultancy and project leadership for clients. It is not solely about the technology, but the process and the change that we are trying to implement. After working with a variety of laboratory software companies, I’ve learnt the value of change management and giving clear guidance to customers. Overall, I am very fulfilled with my role and feel that each day is varied which keeps things exciting.

Tell us more about your background, and what lead you up to this point in your career.

I originally did a degree in biochemistry, which led me on to the start of my career working in a pathology lab in the West Midlands for around 5 years. In my mid-twenties, I moved on to a pathology software company and the realm of technology. Throughout my career, I have worked in a variety of IT and lab-oriented roles. For example, I spent 15 years at LabVantage initially as a business analyst, moving upwards to become a Project Manager and then in charge of professional services for the European region. This was what introduced me to Scimcon, as they delivered some consultancy work for a mutual customer at the time. I worked closely with Geoff Parker and David Sanders, on a variety of implementation projects.

One of our biggest projects when I worked for the vendor, and Scimcon was also involved (before I was working directly with them) with a top 5 pharma company, which took several years to complete. There was a huge workforce, with regular site visits taking place most weeks. Scimcon also had 3-4 employees working on the project, along with Co-Founder Trevor De Silva. As a Project Lead, Scimcon strategised with me (as the LIMS vendor) to create a solid project plan. They helped to bridge the gap. Next, we worked for a testing and inspection company in Belgium, and Scimcon contributed in a similar way as before. They acted as an intermediary between vendor and customer, to measure the scale and requirements of the project, which is exactly what I find myself doing now.

During my time working for a vendor prior to Scimcon, I found myself increasingly pulled to the HR side, and was eager to get back into the science and back at the coal face on scientific technology systems. While my work with Scimcon is still very people-focussed, it’s allowed me to balance both my communication skills with my love of science.

What do you enjoy the most about working with Scimcon?

The variety of projects we get at Scimcon has kept things interesting. I’ve completed five projects in the last seven years, all of different lengths and requirements, and worked in a variety of new areas that were previously out of my comfort zone. For example, after many years working in life sciences, last year I worked alongside a materials company, in charge of manufacturing batteries and the recycling process. Although I had no experience in this area, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and picked up a lot of new knowledge. With the types of projects we lead, you cannot look at our work as technology: you must look at it as process change. If you take a software into a lab that people have not used before, it is disruptive to them. So the role of the Scimcon lead is not only to be familiar with the software but to manage the change successfully. I have worked with many suppliers of software – from LabVantage Solutions through to Thermo Fisher, Waters, Dotmatics etc – but what is more important is my ability to understand the lab and the people. The software itself is almost incidental.

Working with Scimcon has also shown me the importance of diplomacy when managing projects. I try to maintain a passive approach to problems that arise, working through them in a controlled, systematic way with both client and vendor. Having worked on both the vendor side of lab informatics project management, and seeing the customer standpoint, I have experienced first-hand the value of Scimcon’s consultancy services. For large and complex projects, we mediate between client and customer, drawing out a clear set of tactics and ways to communicate any issues or challenges along the way. I enjoy working collaboratively with each party to create a productive path forward, something which I have enjoyed in my current project with an international biotechnology company.

How has remote working impacted your role and how you deliver it?

I’ve been working remotely for many years, long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, so I was well and truly prepared for the switch. In a sense, the transition towards remote working on a global scale has normalised the way I worked previously, so it is something I am well adjusted to. Since the pandemic, travel has increased slightly but on a periodic basis. I travel on-site to the Netherlands around once per month to visit the customer I’m currently supporting.

Technology improvements in the last few years have also allowed me to better deliver my services from home. It means customers can connect with us a lot more easily, as things are becoming more localised. We can communicate with customers and companies across the world via Teams calls and other virtual conferencing platforms. I’ve found that the expectation with most projects is to travel to site every 3-4 weeks, which in turn saves on travel costs and is better for the environment.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I’m very much into sport, particularly football (a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan through and through). I’ve had a season ticket for the past 30 years, and have been attending the matches since I was a young child. I’m also fond of the NFL, as a supporter of the Miami Dolphins, I make the commute to London every October to watch the games. Across the board, I like most sports-watching and take part myself on occasion. I used to play 5-a-side on a weekly basis, until the pandemic got in the way, and more recently I have taken on badminton to try and stay active outside of work.

Travelling is also hobby of mine, and my wife and I bought a holiday home near Alicante, Spain during the pandemic. We viewed the villa virtually and saw it for the first time in-person when we arrived to collect the keys! The pandemic definitely marked a change in priorities for me – as the world became remote, we were saving on daily expenditures, so decided to invest in a holiday home instead of a swanky car at a time people generally weren’t really driving far. We travel there frequently, and I’ve invested in a keyboard and monitor to ensure I can work remotely from there with ease.

What is your favourite travel destination?

My wife and I love to travel, in the past we’ve visited America, Singapore, Cape Town and more. We went to Thailand at the beginning of the year which was a highlight, and we have a few trips on the horizon including an RV road trip around Canada next month. We’re also planning to go on a cruise around Alaska, so plenty of trips to keep us busy.

My favourite travel destination is Hawaii, as the scenery was beautiful. Japan was also another favourite, and we travelled around the country on the bullet trains which was a fascinating experience. We are very independent when it comes to travelling, maybe that’s the Project Manager in me. I enjoy planning everything down to the T.

Scimcon as a business is deeply rooted in technology – but how technology-oriented are you? What devices do you use?

I’ve always been really interested in technology, which inevitably led me to the career I’m in now. My passion for tech began as a teenager, when I invested in the early computer models such as the Commodore and Spectrum, and I bought a PC when owning a computer was quite unusual. This passion has grown over time, and I enjoy the seamless experience of modern technology. Devices were less user-friendly back when I was developing an interest in tech, so I would always be fiddling around with settings to get the most out of my system. I usually get frustrated when devices are badly interfaced, which is what sparked my original interest in LIMS – I was a frustrated lab user! Part of what I do is make the technology work for customers, and ensure they get the most out of it. Giving customers the same pleasure that I get out of successfully operating technology is very rewarding.

Does your use of technology differ outside of work?

Naturally, my home is equipped with all kinds of technology and smart devices. For example, we have Sonos speaker systems surrounding our home, and five televisions in total. We also have Amazon Alexa speakers in various rooms throughout the house. Another tech addition is my virtual reality headset, used mainly for gameplay. Ironically, the internet in our Alicante holiday home is faster than the one at our home in Shropshire, which gives me another excuse to travel out there more often.

For more company news and updates, follow Scimcon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scimcon/

Trends in the lab informatics landscape in 2023?

With our sponsorship of SmartLab Exchange Europe and US earlier in 2023, and our sponsorship of FutureLabs this week, we’ve developed a view of key insights on what is happening across the lab informatics industry, and where priorities lie for lab-centred organisations globally. We have also provided insight into the areas budget-holders are looking to invest in new technologies.

Investment priorities for the modern lab

Attending conferences globally means that our team can provide key insight to share with fellow informatics peers. Face-to-face interactions provide an opportunity to receive instant feedback and insight into lab informatics trends, which we can extract valuable data from.

Having spoken to delegates in North America and Europe this year already, we have identified some of the high priority investment areas for lab informatics in 2023 by comparing what is important to event attendees, who include representatives from leading pharma, biotech, material science, crop science, FMCG, and food companies. Of the global companies who attended, more than 120 people were polled:

Figure 1 represents the data from both SmartLab Exchange Europe and US, to give an overall view of lab informatics priorities across the entirety of 2023 thus far:

The graph also demonstrates other key lab informatics investment priorities (from the EU and US summits), and these include:

We can see a real trend towards intelligent systems this year, as data consolidation and reusability take centre stage and budget-holders looks towards automation, both physical and within software systems, to reduce the risks of human and manual errors. This isn’t a trend that’s isolated to a particular lab sector either – we’re seeing similar trends across all sectors.

What other areas of lab informatics innovation are taking centre stage?

Extracting feedback from delegates at conferences in all geographies means we can identify patterns in the data in order of priority. While Figure 1 highlights high priority investment areas, Figure 2 shows exactly what delegates at SmartLab Exchange Europe and US are planning to assign budget to in the next 12 months:

From Figure 2, we can see that immediate investment priorities for SmartLab Exchange Europe and US attendees are as follows:

What does this mean for lab informatics in 2023?

From both events in both geographies, we can see that automation and digitalisation rank highly in terms of investment priorities for 2023. Laboratories are technologically innovating to suit growing capacity and speed to market. Automation also substantially reduces the risk of human error, as repetitive and manual tasks can be carried out with ease using automated solutions.

We also learn that lab users are prioritising areas such as lab scheduling, method development, data governance, connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). As throughput expectations increase for labs around the world, the need to digitalise and streamline operations is more prevalent than ever. The aim of many laboratories is to increase efficiency within the lab, and digitalisation acts as a catalyst in this process.

You can find our team between Wednesday 31st May – Friday 2nd June at FutureLabs Live, where we’ll be developing more lab informatics insights from fellow sponsors and guests. Stay up to date with our LinkedIn, to be notified of other tradeshows Scimcon is attending this year.

Visit Scimcon at the event and contact us directly to book a conversation, to learn more about how we can support your lab informatics projects.

Meet Scimcon: Lynda Weller?

Profile

How long have you been involved with Scimcon, and what does your role involve?

My journey with Scimcon began in 2021, as an Informatics Project Manager. I was approached by Scimcon’s recruitment consultant regarding a must-see role for the business. This arrived at what felt like an inopportune time for me, as I was relocating to Cornwall with my family.

After completing several interviews and meetings, I secured the project management position. My first project at Scimcon was managing a laboratory information management systems (LIMS) deployment to the UK government Lighthouse Covid-testing laboratories for a major life science instrumentation vendor.

The Lighthouse LIMS project lasted for around a year. The Scimcon Co-Founder, Geoff Parker, then presented another project opportunity to me, which began around a month later, in May 2022. My role involved providing Information Systems project management, business analysis, as well as client engagement and consultancy to a major biotech based in the Netherlands.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Scimcon?

I enjoy the continuity that Scimcon offers. I like to work on longer assignments and, although I work remotely, being part of a team of like-minded people is a refreshing bonus. In my previous roles, I have worked independently at different locations with no company support. At Scimcon I’ve been able to form lasting work relationships.

The current project I’m working on is scheduled to be completed next year (2024), we have carried out the work in phases to ensure that each aspect of the client brief is being met. Working from my home office with visits to the client’s site as required means that I can work flexibly, and I am supported by the Scimcon team of experts who can be contacted when I need some extra help.

Tell us more about your background, and what lead you up to this point in your career.

My background is in software and programming, working with life science organisations to roll out informatics projects and IT services. Prior to working with Scimcon, I had been an independent contractor since 2009, helping an array of companies to meet their software goals. My first contract was with Johnson & Johnson, which took around twelve months to complete. It was very structured; the client already knew what documentation and training consultancy they required. I then moved on to Takeda, which progressed from a three-month initial contract to a longer contract, and eventually for a couple of years as a permanent employee. My time with the company came to an end as they closed the offices I was employed in.

How has remote working impacted your role and how you deliver it?

Remote working is something that has benefitted my new lifestyle in Cornwall. Home-office working has become much more acceptable – especially now we have the appropriate technology at our fingertips to ensure that work is carried out efficiently without sacrificing the personal touch. I visit the client’s site at regular intervals, as needs arise, and it makes a refreshing change to meet the remote team face-to-face.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

We moved to Cornwall to be closer to our family and we spend a lot more time with them enjoying the fantastic area we now call home.

Our house was a couple of miners’ cottages and dates back to the 19th century. It has been renovated previously but we have continued with them and now turn our attention to the garden.

My husband and I love motorcycle touring. You could say we took our gap year later in life, touring Europe, the United States and many other destinations. We also take part in long distance rallies which has enabled us to travel to some of the most scenic places of the world, capturing authentic photography along the way. I ride pillion and to help us remember our adventures we document them on our website.

I love to read on my kindle, my favourite genre is fantasy and I enjoy reading personal stories such as biographies (motorcyclists, pop stars, even the rogue Ronnie Biggs). I went to see Miriam Margolyes in her Dickens women’s production, and she set me the challenge of reading the entire Dickens collection. It took me a year but I succeeded, though it’s something I wouldn’t want to do again!

What is your favourite travel destination?

My favourite travel destination is New Zealand. During our ‘gap year’ we went with one of our friends, hired motorbikes and just rode round, booking accommodation as we went. We had fantastic weather (which I understand might be unusual!) and really enjoyed riding in the beautiful scenery.

Scimcon as a business is deeply rooted in technology – but how technology-oriented are you? What devices do you use?

Ironically, I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly tech-oriented person. I am one of those people that needs to do something three or four times, then it sticks. I can pick things up when it comes to software, as I started my career as a programmer. I use my PC and headset for daily work duties. My phone also stays with me for mundane activities.

Does your use of technology differ outside of work?

I have a lot of technology throughout my home, including a large television with surround-sound speakers, an Xbox, Firestick, a Shield, and numerous Sonos speakers around the house. The best part is that we have a universal remote control for all our TV devices. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop me from clicking the wrong button now and then, especially where it’s a touch screen.

Nonetheless, I do love tech. I use a kindle to read, which goes everywhere with me. As soon as the pre-Kindle e-readers came out we started using them on our bike tours – imagine trying to fit 30-40 books in the panniers! I love that I can read in bed without a light and have the text as big or small as I like.

Working alongside Scimcon has enabled me to implement my skills and industry experience, to provide the highest quality information systems (IS) consultancy for our clients and customers. My longstanding relationship with Scimcon is one that I am proud of, pioneering the way to make science more connected.

For more company news and updates, follow Scimcon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scimcon/

Scimcon launches Graduate Recruitment Programme, partnering with Sanctuary Graduates to meet business needs?

Those of you who have been following Scimcon will know that in 2022, we launched our first ever Graduate Consultant Scheme, to bring fresh new talent into the lab informatics consultancy industry, and to help us expand our business by training the next generation of consultants. As we move through 2023, we are proud to announce that we have partnered with Sanctuary Graduates to launch our official Graduate Recruitment Programme, sourcing new talent to join our specialist team of lab informatics consultants, to globally support informatics programmes and projects.

Bringing new talent into the lab informatics industry

Lab informatics plays an increasingly important role in delivering novel solutions to the challenges faced by modern laboratories. Scientific labs continue to become increasingly technologically driven. In the lab informatics arena existing technologies such as LIMS, ELNs, SDMS and complex instrumentation are now joined by digital transformation programmes not to mention the push to benefit from AI and ML advances.

Scimcon passionately believe that it is the responsibility of organisations like ours to facilitate the development of the next generation of specialist consultants and project resources.

Scimcon aims to contribute to this development goal by working with Sanctuary Graduates to bring new graduates into the lab informatics domain, to train from the get-go in the skills, knowledge, and project experience needed to build roles in the informatics business.

Successful applicants to the new Programme will receive in house training, and will build their experience by shadowing our ‘fully-baked’ consultants within life sciences, FMCG, and material sciences projects globally.

This opportunity allows new graduates to get their foot in the door of the world of lab informatics consultancy. Learning how to succeed in a wide range of projects from single systems implementations, such as LIMS/ELN, to rolling out central data management strategies across organisations, through to full-scale digital transformation projects. This unique opportunity results in successful candidates learning the role by actively being engaged in projects.

How does Sanctuary Graduates support the search for Scimcon?

The team at Sanctuary Graduates is partnering with the Scimcon team to deliver the perfect candidates for the programme. With close relationships to universities across the UK, the Sanctuary team helps to bridge the gap by working closely with Scimcon, to learn more about the calibre of candidates the Scimcon team are looking for in new graduates – covering everything from academic background, to personality, and geographic location.

The Sanctuary team doesn’t just stop there. They reach potential candidates through a variety of digital and social platforms to provide an initial talent pool as wide as possible. This includes speaking with society leads at universities who pass job ads to members, advertising on platforms like Milkround and Indeed, and using LinkedIn to access a wide range of candidates entering the job market online.

In the same way that data is at the heart of what Scimcon does, data is also at the heart of Sanctuary’s business – candidate data is stored centrally together with very specific attributes. By working closely with Scimcon, Sanctuary can filter applicants by these attributes, with the goal of shortlisting the perfect candidates for interviews.

What is Scimcon looking for from graduates for its intake?

“There are a few key traits and qualifications we’re looking for when it comes to taking on new graduates within our programme” explains David Sanders, Head of Operations at Scimcon. “Of course, a background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is the baseline requirement for us, and a good technical understanding in computer sciences or similar being highly desirable. We appreciate that graduates straight out of university will not have extensive industry experience, but academic background together with a willingness to learn and contribute to the success of Scimcon is what we’re looking for in a candidate.”

He continues: “There are other skills that differentiate one candidate from another. Proficiency in communication is key. We look for people that are confident, presentable, and able to demonstrate that they would be comfortable in a customer setting. The successful candidates will be exposed to client projects very early in their training, so it is important that they are inquisitive, are not afraid to ask questions, and can propose creative solutions to help resolve our clients often complex problems.”

Alex Antoniades, Graduate Campaign Manager at Sanctuary Graduates, shares more insight on what Sanctuary is looking for when recruiting candidates for Scimcon: “Working so closely with David has been really helpful, as he’s provided clear communication throughout the process, and we are fully aligned on what candidates need to be able to offer. Another key factor for candidates to consider is location – while many roles have moved to full-time remote, it’s clear from our conversations with Scimcon that on-site presence is necessary for a Graduate position, due to the technical nature of the work and the training required. This is something that we have made clear to candidates throughout our recruitment process – this isn’t a role that can be done from home from the outset, and candidates need to be willing to travel into the companies offices and globally to clients sites. It’s completely understandable for this role, and the great thing about Graduates is that many of these candidates are often fresh out of university, ready for a new start, and aren’t tied down to a particular location. It’s an exciting opportunity for Graduates ready to kick off a new career in an exciting and important sector.”

For more information about Scimcon’s Graduate Recruitment Programme, potential candidates are advised to reach out to the Sanctuary Graduates team via the website, or by contacting Alex Antoniades at alexander.antoniades@sanctuarygraduates.co.uk.

We also recommend following us on LinkedIn to stay up to date with what Scimcon is working on.

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