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Thermo Fisher Scientific Joins the Pistoia Alliance

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Recently, Thermo Fisher Scientific announced its membership of the Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance of life science companies, vendors, publishers and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D through pre-competitive collaboration.

Technology Networks spoke with Richard Milne, Vice President and General Manager, Digital Science, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Daniella Cramp, President of Instrument and Enterprise Services, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Trish Meek, Director of Marketing, Digital Science, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Nicola Gardner, Marketing Manager, Digital Science, Thermo Fisher Scientific at the Lab of the Future Congress 2019 to learn more about the goals of joining the alliance, and what innovation means to Thermo Fisher.

Molly Campbell (MC): The Pistoia Alliance aims to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. Why is this important to Thermo Fisher Scientific?

Daniella Cramp (DC):
As an industry leader in the life science and scientific community, it's important for us to help lead the way, and standards like this are going to help support the laboratory community by transforming their entire laboratory workflow and digitalization process. We want to be at the forefront of that and supporting it.

Richard Milne (RM): At Thermo Fisher, we're driven by our goal of helping serve our customers. Frankly, our customers have a goal in the space as well. To ensure we are able to exceed our customers' needs, ambitions and expectations, we need to support the adoption of these alliances. We are constantly looking to lower barriers to innovation – it’s a driving factor of everything we do, and this commitment then feeds through to facilitate what our customers need. At the Lab of the Future Congress, you can see many of the pharmaceutical companies saying, "Well, we've got these ambitions, but we're not quite sure how to get there," and it's incumbent upon us as one of the industry leaders to help provide support and say, "We're there and we will help you."

MC: What does innovation mean to Thermo Fisher? How does that align with the requirements of the Lab of the Future?

There are many different levels of innovation, and the way Thermo Fisher innovates has to be at scale, meaning it has to leverage the reach and capabilities we have. Therefore, we can innovate in a different way to others. It’s going to require everybody in the industry to get us to where we need to be on this journey. We are confident in the way we innovate, but also supportive and respectful of the process of others.

DC: It really relates to how we serve our customer at the end of the day. Innovation, from my perspective, is when we look at what our customers' needs are, and seek ways to enhance their lives and workday. That's innovation, whether it's with people, new processes or new technologies. To me, it's about seeking to understand our customers and enhancing their work by providing the innovations they need.

MC: What are some of the key challenges currently existing in R&D that Thermo Fisher hope will be overcome through joining the Pistoia Alliance?

Trish Meek (TM):
One of the critical things you've heard at the Lab of the Future Congress is around open standards. Daniella comes from an industry that's had open standards and instrument integration for a long time. Until we have the connectivity we need between instruments and systems, our customers really can't fully innovate. The Pistoia Alliance gives us a common community where we can work with other vendors and R&D scientists to define what are the critical tasks we need to accomplish together. We're actually working on creating a stream with Pistoia Alliance that focuses on how we transform the laboratory.

Nicola Gardner (NG): For me, this goes back to innovation because when you work with customers, partners and vendors, the collaboration helps innovation happen faster. You get the insights into what you need to innovate and where you need to go.

MC: In the press release announcing the alliance, Thermo Fisher said "This network will be critical to the continued acceleration of Thermo Fisher’s digital offerings in 2020 and beyond". Are you able to expand on this at all?

We have ongoing, extensive investment in a portfolio of digital technologies. This is something that we've been doing for a number of years and will continue to do into the future.

One of the important points of the Pistoia Alliance is that it's going to bring us closer, into a neutral industry forum, to our customers. This will provide a shorter "chain" of understanding, specifically where they want our priorities to be.

What we're always looking to do is align our actions with the maximum value for our customers. Working in the Pistoia Alliance, outside of a transaction or a specific area of business, we can get the threads and key priorities from our customers. Then, we can use this information to create roadmaps. It’s really the critical piece when you get that form of discussion, you can accelerate your priorities and be confident in your focus.

MC: What are some of the key technologies that Thermo Fisher view as being integral to the Lab of the Future?

There are various global technologies that are critical. A big area that we are focusing on is deployment technologies. And, that's changing as robotics enter the lab. There are several data technologies that have been discussed at this Congress. For example, artificial intelligence (AI). We're investigating augmented reality, remote service technologies, and increasingly a focal point for us is the intersection between the physical services and digital support capabilities. We work hard to bring together different pools of value through our offerings. This is so the instrument connects to the remote monitoring that connects to the service engineer, who is effectively resourced with the right parts for the best integration. What we're looking to do is to continue to offer these threads together to extend the chain of value for customers.

MC: Collaboration and interdisciplinary science has been a key focus of this year's congress. In addition to the Pistoia Alliance, in what other ways do Thermo Fisher foster collaboration both inside and outside of the lab?

One of the biggest opportunities for any industry leader is to look through the customers’ lens for their needs and experience. It can be easy to silo within an organization's agenda and structure that has historically been successful. But, for Thermo Fisher, it's such a multidisciplinary approach with our goal to support what works best within the laboratory. We've listened to our customers, and the importance of the convergence between the IT team and laboratories along with all of the folks in the facilities supporting the entire scope of the laboratory.

It makes it incumbent upon us, and others in the industry, to approach our customers’ problems holistically, and organize ourselves for our best collaboration. It is not just about any one technology or one way to operate. It's about the collective strength of a multidisciplinary team in bringing together a laboratory for the future that really works and advances research.

TM: As the world leader in serving science, Thermo Fisher is involved in a wide variety of consortiums. We're invested in Allotrope, standards for lab automation, consortiums like SiLA and others, and seek opportunities to collaborate with scientists and other vendors to help drive the industry forward. We see the Pistoia Alliance as a logical extension of our vision.

Richard Milne, Daniella Cramp, Trish Meek and Nicola Gardner were speaking to Molly Campbell, Science Writer, Technology Networks.