Over the last decade, co-working spaces have become the preferred work environment for freelancers and entrepreneurs running small to medium-sized enterprises. Most of these individuals and organisations elect to rent a shared workspace in the interest of cutting operational costs, accelerating time to startup, and maximising productivity. Many are also interested in inter-organisational collaboration and socialisation, and thus aim to make fruitful connections by utilising co-working spaces.
Today, co-working spaces have grown popular and complex enough to serve the needs of almost any industry, including a number of formerly niche sectors. The establishment of co-working laboratories, for instance, has enabled scientists and scientific entrepreneurs to get around the typically exorbitant costs of R&D, to shorten the research lifecycle, and to bring their innovations to market more efficiently. The hope is that this new working model will help the biotech and pharmaceutical industries become more agile and expedite the commercialisation of promising scientific developments, especially those that serve the purpose of improving human health and life.
Here are five of the most compelling reasons any biotechnology startups should consider choosing a shared biotechnology laboratory:
Makes Research More Cost-Efficient
Science labs are about 2-3 times more expensive to construct than regular office spaces. This is largely because the nature of activities conducted within these facilities require specialised plumbing, electrical wiring systems, ventilation, and other infrastructure. Factor in the steep costs of rent and of the scientific equipment needed to furnish science laboratories and it becomes abundantly clear why cutting-edge R&D was once the exclusive province of large corporations.
The cost of constructing and maintaining a laboratory space has historically been one of the biggest barriers for scientific entrepreneurs. Co-working laboratories help mitigate expenses for small research teams by allowing them to rent out specially developed spaces and state-of-the-art equipment instead of building their own lab facilities.
Lets Renters Match Expenses to Business Needs
Most co-working labs allow researchers to rent certain spaces, such as offices for administrative paperwork or cold rooms for storing laboratory samples, on an as-needed basis. Pieces of equipment that only see occasional use can also be rented as necessary. This approach gives startups a greater measure of control over their expenses and allows them to align expenditure more closely with actual business requirements.
Unlike traditional rental arrangements, renters of co-working laboratories are also not typically required to commit to using these facilities long-term. They can instead elect to rent labs over a shorter period of time or even for one-time use. This setup is ideal for researchers who occasionally want to use co-working laboratories as alternatives to their regular office spaces or labs.
Reduces Time to Startup Significantly
Building labs, procuring equipment, securing the necessary legal and environmental permits, and liaising with vendors are extremely time-intensive processes in addition to being costly. Organisations typically have to wait months before they can get any actual research underway. Naturally, such conditions aren’t ideal for startups under pressure to deliver viable treatments or products to market within a specific timeframe.
In contrast, a company can begin using a co-working lab almost immediately upon paying the necessary rental fees, which has the potential to accelerate project timelines considerably. And while co-working laboratories are viable primary research facilities in their own right, they also serve companies well as venues for preliminary research. Organisations waiting on the completion of a permanent laboratory elsewhere can utilise a co-working lab to keep projects moving and avoid costly delays.
Helps Entrepreneurs Build Strong Support Systems
Entrepreneurs need more than safe and well-outfitted R&D facilities to build successful startups. They also need sustainable sources of capital, as well as productive partnerships with academic and industry experts, legal advisors and fellow startup organisations. Being surrounded by a robust business and innovation ecosystem gives startups the chance to create much more value than they ever would have been able to do on their own.
This vital access to community is one of the reasons co-working laboratories are most frequently located in established innovation hotspots around the world, such as Singapore, London, and Silicon Valley. Researchers who use these facilities gain access not only to valuable working space but also to a vast support network of potential suppliers, investors, advisors and partners.
Creates a Supportive, Collaborative Environment
Co-working laboratories, like conventional co-working spaces, are hotbeds of inspiration for the people who use them. Shared work areas allow researchers to meet and interact with scientists and experts from other organisations, which, in turn, fosters an environment of trust, creativity, and collaboration that everyone involved can benefit from. Regular encounters and interactions in these spaces can and often do eventually give rise to more formal inter-organisational projects and partnerships.
Industry experts are also hopeful that the open and inclusive nature of co-working laboratories will encourage more diversity in the biotech sector, which has historically been dominated by cisgender white men with long-established careers. Biotech spaces have much to gain from the presence of younger researchers, female and nonbinary researchers, and researchers of color, all of whom have the potential to introduce new and essential perspectives.
Superior R&D facilities, quality equipment and innovative research methods are now within reach of startups, thanks to the rise of co-working laboratories. Biotechnology startups looking to reduce overhead costs or those in search of productive networking opportunities would do well to consider utilising shared lab spaces for their projects.