"We want to empower life scientists with accessible automation they can use every day"
Albert Hilber, BaselArea.swiss and Oskari Vinko, UniteLabs
Which problem does your company aim to solve?
Oskari Vinko, UniteLabs AG: Companies are looking for ways to increase the productivity of scientists and technicians in their life science laboratories. However, the current solutions in the market do not follow the ever-changing needs and require dedicated instrumentation and infrastructure. Almost all of them are inadequate outside of static and large volume processes such as diagnostics or high throughput screening and have therefore only limited use in a diverse and dynamic research environment. Additionally, the providers bind the customer to their own ecosystem and charge costly maintenance contracts. In contrast to the most common lab automation solutions, UniteLabs is building automation and robotics software that would allow repurposing of the automation system quickly to new tasks. Our strengths lie in connecting instruments across vendors and informatics systems using the new SiLA 2 standard and open-source approach. We further offer a dynamic web-based control software “UniteFlow” that runs on mobile devices and can controlany SiLA 2 based device as well as robots.
In addition to providing connectivity and automation, we have recently launched robotic lab assistants, which can perform tasks alongside people and navigate autonomously in the research facilities. Based on the interviews with our customers, it would bring advantages in laboratories like reduced manual labor, integration with modern informatics tools, higher utilization of the expensive analytical instruments and ability to run a variety of experiments around the clock.
When and why did you found your company?
Maximilian Schulz and I incorporated UniteLabs as an ETH Zurich spin-off in November 2017. We are developing automation solutions for the connected Lab of the Future. Our vision is to provide a vendor-agnostic data flow and process automation platform where lab instruments, robots, and information systems can be instantly connected, automated and repurposed. Even though the customer requirements change over time, these unique capabilities allow the clients to retain the value of the automation systems in different applications.
What does winning the i4Challenge mean to you?
The visibility we gained in the Basel area, thanks to the i4Challenge, is of core importance to us. It also helps us to understand what is going on in the Industry 4.0 ecosystem in the region and provides an opportunity to validate our mobile robot and IoT solutions beyond the life science applications.
What does the term “Industry 4.0” mean to you and why is the topic relevant?
It simply means “connectivity” and the ability to easily set up measure-feedback interactions. In automation, connectivity to different devices for control, data acquisition, and monitoring is a pre-requisite. These applications are universal and we are looking forward to learning how others solve the same problems and see if our solutions apply in different contexts.
What are your plans for your company?
We want to empower life scientists with accessible automation they can use every day and everywhere. With the launch of the robotic lab assistants, we want to become the world’s leading provider of flexible lab automation solutions.