Digital Disruption in the Lab: The R&D of Tomorrow, an Accenture Report

In the typical chemical company R&D lab, the staff still communicates largely via paper, relying on lab books, print-outs of results and measurements, and spreadsheets. Reviews and guidance of the lab’s work are provided by insiders, such as the PhD or his or her supervisor. The system, while being completely offline, also misses tremendous  opportunities to collaborate with customers and even other parts of the company, Accenture says.

To understand the potential impact of digital technology on chemical company innovation, here are a few of the trends Accenture discusses in its report:

1. Ideation: Innovative ideas will be developed in the lab and across the ecosystem with a deeper understanding of user and customer needs as the boundaries between the lab, the organization, partners and ad hoc collaborators become blurred and enable more exchange. P&G increased its productivity by 60% with this format, and doubled it’s innovation success rate.

2. Organization:  Routine and repetitive tasks will be bundled and outsourced/offshored, increasing efficiency and enabling a stronger focus on strategic, creative work.

3. Process: Automation will drive process excellence, using telematics, robots and autonomous systems to handle experiment-related procedures such as pipetting, diluting, dispersing and even recipe mixing.

4. Connectivity: Using the “Internet of things,” which connects sensors, equipment, computers and other objects, machines will autonomously exchange and analyze data and then feed the resulting analyses into statistical experiments planning.

5. Analytics: Virtual experiments will complement and reduce the number of in-person experiments. By doing this Johnson & Johnson saved 40% in development time and saved by 60% the number of patients in clinical trials. And a pharmaceutical company reduced animal testing by up to 85%.

6. Skills:  Supervisors will go beyond overseeing a few direct reporting lines in the lab, and instead motivate and engage a range of employees and non-employees alike, often working remotely and across varying cultural, technical and entrepreneurial backgrounds

Read Accenture’s full report.


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