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2012: The LIMS and Informatics Year in Review

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For an election year in the U.S. where much controversy was generated by the various candidates, the LIMS and Informatics marketplaces sailed along rather well. No really major product announcements were announced; rather continuous enhancements were produced for most LIMS solutions. Big data became a by-word, which is interesting since laboratories have always dealt with large amounts of data. It's just that in recent years data generation has grown exponentially and keeping track of it has become a big issue (and a market) in itself.  

Mobile technology in the lab became more accepted. In fact 2012 was a banner year for mobile working in every workplace: one Forbes report states that smartphone deployment in the workplace went from 48% in 2011 to 89% in 2012, becoming the defacto work phone. Technology Networks posted an interesting commentary by Pro-curo Software Ltd earlier in the year that asked Are Laboratories Ready for Truly Mobile Working?  One way or the other mobile technology is changing the way laboratory staff work, and it is a change for the better.

The above observations are supported by a report published by Global Industry Analysts which projects the LIMS marketplace to surpass US$1Billion in the next three years (Global Laboratory Information Management Systems Market to Reach US$1.4 Billion by 2015).  This growth will be driven by a combination of factors: emerging markets, technological advancements and the growing popularity of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) LIMS. Technology Networks has reported on SaaS LIMS often on these pages and – since they are ideally suited for mobile working – it looks like they will continue to gain marketshare.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) continued unabated in 2012, starting with Accelrys' acquisition of VelQuest Corporation early in the year and the acquisition by Life Technologies of Compendia Bioscience in October. Even more activity was generated by announcements of various industry partnerships, from GeneData's collaborations with Roche and Insilico Biotechnology to Accelerated Technology Laboratories' joint marketing and technology partnership with AllMax. Key industry players are seeking to cement strong relationships and extend competitive technology agreements, all to the advantage of the end-user who gets a better solution for their lab.

Along those lines, integration was also a strong theme in 2012. Two of the more significant announcements came from PerkinElmer and GeneData. PerkinElmer integrated their Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) with Elsevier’s Reaxys®, a web-based workflow solution designed for chemistry researchers in drug discovery, chemicals and academic research. Genedata followed up their announcement of collaboration with Insilico Biotechnology with a further announcement of integration of their technologies to create an end-to-end platform for industrial biotechnology research. 

The slow economy has meant that many organizations put off purchases, but those purchases cannot be put off forever. Informatics and LIMS upgrades and implementations in particular can directly improve lab productivity when the right solution is implemented, so a delayed decision doesn't necessarily save money for the lab. This point is understood by lab managers; many announcements were made over the year about LIMS implementations and those are just a fraction of the ones that occurred. Caution is still a watchword, but 2013 will hopefully see some of the grey economic overcast disperse.