Tag Archives: Innovation

The future scientist, a desk job?

I’m always fascinated by the new innovations that grace the shores of the research tools industry.

Machines are getting smarter, sensitivities and specificities are increasing, efficiencies are being improved, tasks are becoming unified, less labour intensive and being designed to suit our time demanding and digital lives.

It won’t be to far off when a scientist becomes a desk job (some would argue it’s pretty much there given the amount of time that is dedicated to grant writing these days). They will be able to perform all their experiments using robotics and integrated machinery from the comfort of their own office desktop PC.

A couple examples I wanted to share that illustrate this innovation are:

1: Invitrogen iBlot and BenchPro

These two items are targeted at reducing the time and effort it takes to undertake a Western Blot. The iBlot is able to transfer proteins from a separating electrophoresis gel on to a membrane for blotting purposes. This takes 7 MINUTES!!. An average transfer for me takes 1 HOUR!. The BenchPro addresses the next step in the Western Blot, the application of antibodies, blocking solutions and washes. This can be a lengthy process, one which you tirelessly wait around waiting for probing to occur so you can wash it and then do it all over again. This machine automates this > 2hour process.

Next incremental innovation? Combined iBlot and BenchPro into 1 unit.



2 Biomerieux. These guys are in the business of full microbiological lab automation. One particular innovation I have come across is their PREVI™ Isola. This is a large scale automated agar plate streaking machine.


3: Remote Desktop.  While this one is not specifically for the science research industry it does have a very interesting application for it. It allows a scientist to leave the lab with an experiment running say a chromatography experiment, real time PCR, spectroscopy experiment or in fact any machine that is connected to an intranet connected PC. The scientist can then dial into the PC to access data, change parameters, fix the machine or just turn it off after the run. You can even do it on your smart phone these days!

4: Microfluidics. This technology utilises micro scale pumps, tubes, valves or sensors like flowmeters and viscometers capable of  handling and analysing  extremely small fluid volumes. Together these form a ‘Lab on a Chip’ capable of performing a micro scale experiment. It converts a labour intensive multi step experiment into an automated one that uses minimal sample (hence they are referred to as Total Analysis Systems sometimes).



Some examples include:

(a) The ‘Lung on a Chip’ device ‘reconstitutes the critical functional alveolar-capillary interface of the human lung’. This is used to test the effects of environmental toxins, absorption of aerosolized therapeutics, and the safety and efficacy of new drugs.  [REF]

(b) PCR on a Chip [REF]

Some chips are now commercial and are matched with reader machines [REF].


5: Robotic Liquid Handling Systems

Basic lab robotics have been around for ages. But each year they get more advanced and user friendly. The most common sort are the liquid handling systems. But companies are also producing task specific robots e.g. for running entire DNA extractions or ELISAs. We also aren’t that far off seeing these systems being unified e.g. liquid handling and PCR run, within the same robotic process.






Today I realised I really need to STOP, READ & THINK more often.Stop-Sign-Beatty-Nevada-USA_web

As our lives get increasingly complex and fast paced we find ourselves adopting a result driven work ethic to perform at our max productivity.

This is something that I have experienced when pursuing my PhD time and time again. You get totally fixated on pumping out results.

While most of the time this is a good thing, this work ethic can kill off that innovative and creative core that makes ‘cool things happen’.

Because I’m now at the stage of my thesis where it’s forcing me to STOP, READ & THINK on a daily basis, I’ve suddenly realised the benefits I’ve been missing out on by not doing this more often.

Schedule days when you do give yourself time to chill out and read up on the latest news, broaden your knowledge base or re-interpret/evaluate your outputs (e.g. data, results, reports). It is then neurons will start firing. Ideas will connect with one another. Revelations will appear. Concepts will evolve and hypotheses will be born.

The result?

Discoveries & innovation! 


Graeme @ graemefielder.com

New Entrepreneurship Courses at Auckland Uni

In 2012 the University will launch its new lot of programmes in Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Commercialisation.

The includes:

  1. Graduate Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  2. Graduate Diploma in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  3. Post Graduate Certificate in Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship
  4. Masters in in Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship

Pamphlets on each of the courses can be found by clicking on the above links.

#1 and #2 are “targeted at those who have a non-business Bachelor’s Degree and want to develop an understanding of business fundamentals and knowledge of how value is created through creative thinking, science & technology, leading to the introduction of commercially successful innovations by small, large or new organisations”.

#3 and #4 are “for those who wish to develimagesop core knowledge and skills essential to moving research and innovation from the lab to the market place. You will learn how to test and validate customer needs and market demand, protect intellectual property, obtain funding, sell research related innovations and develop successful commercialisation projects”.

“These programmes are for people who are interested in working in start-ups, or with an established small, medium or large innovative organisation.”

To find out more about these new programmes come along to our Information Sessions on Tuesday, 11 October 12-1pm and Thursday, 13 October 12-1pm. Both of these sessions will be held in Decima Glenn, Room 310C, Level 3, Owen G Glenn Building, The University of Auckland Business School. Please register your interest here.


Graeme @ graemefielder.com

Internal Innovation

How to promote innovation within a research facility?

Try hosting your own internal innovation competition or POC fund or exploratory pilot grant.

This doesn’t have to be a substantial amount of money, just enough to allow a researcher to test drive that theory, that idea, that new technique or that concept.

As researchers we are too locked into our day to day research demands of our core projects. There is little opportunity provided  to allow one to act upon  those series of possible side experiments, those new connections between literature and observations that you have made or those new controversial hypotheses that plague the scientists’ mind.

Within my own research institute such a stimulus/opportunity was initiated last year in the form of a research innovation award of $12,500 to pursue novel outside of current projects with an emphasis of inter research group collaboration. I was quite impressed albeit surprised. The next round is coming up soon. I’m preparing my entry as we speak. 🙂


Graeme @ graemefielder.com

Start-up ecosystems & my two cents

Just added my two cents on the recent post by ‘the scientist NZ’ on sciblogs

Hey Aaron
I too believe we are on the right track. We have a lot of the pieces in place and we currently in the process of tweaking, streamlining and bring about cohesiveness between them. With the multiple reports, taskforces and strategies being published in the last year or so it is obvious that we know what these ‘tweaks’ need to be. It is ultimately ‘time’ that is needed. Time for experience to develop, time for more international successes to occur, time for greater pools of capital to develop and time for the underlying culture that fuel these entrepreneurial/ innovation ecosystems to be more widely adopted. ‘Time’ doesn’t suggest that we should just wait around though. It is time with action. How am I contributing to this system development ? is ultimately a question those of us involved in it should be asking of ourselves on a regular basis. NZ will never be a silicon valley but neither will Boston, Singapore or Colorado. We will be our own kiwi system. All in all I see us in the latter third of this ‘first decade’ still and am looking forward to a productive twenty ten.




Graeme @ graemefielder.com