Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | No Comment

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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LifeSpace: New Space for Discovery

Submitted by on September 28, 2010 – 9:13 pmNo Comment

Within the life sciences and biotech industries we are seeing novel combinatorial sciences and system biology approaches quickly overtaking traditional approaches. In order to promote and maintain innovation, new research laboratory prototypes and processes are needed that are better aligned with current  research techniques and readily adaptable to accommodate future methods. There is an urgent need to develop new prototypes and processes that are flexible and sustainable, that support innovation, and are responsive to change. Both academic and corporate laboratories should be re-examined and re-designed in the light of their respective agendas and the need for each to be at the forefront of the state of the art.

Research in this context is understood to take place in a larger work setting, not just in the lab but in collaborative and distributed settings throughout the organization. Individuals may spend much more time working away from where experiments are being carried out but with full access to information generated by them and by other means of inquiry. Opportunities for collaborative work expand beyond face to face to include expanded groups of people who are geographically distributed. Therefore, labs should be recognized as networked spaces, supporting both virtual and actual interactions. Moreover, workspaces that support laboratory specific research should also be interconnected, allowing for iterations of thought and experimentation.

Promoting Innovation

Innovation occurs at every step of the product delivery value stream. Innovative spaces are not static but require careful stewardship over time to support continuous improvement throughout the lifecycle of each project. Through translational diagnosis we analyze the empirical components of the product delivery value stream to develop a custom solution, which is dynamic, and efficient. The focus of any improvement should always be to maximize value to the organization and improve the productive experience of researchers and scientists. New laboratory spaces, interconnections, and support structures are needed to support innovative research practices.

Integrated Technologies

Technology is rapidly transforming research practices, improving communications, and improving simulations and visualization. The research and development stages of a product increasingly require virtual models and simulations in addition to the analysis of physical assays. An effective interface between these different modes of inquiry is increasingly necessary and valuable. The next generation of laboratory research spaces must be hybrids, interconnecting the physical and virtual.  These should include settings that enable individual as well as collaborative work, with colleagues both local and remote. The elements and furnishings that define these spaces should be flexible and intelligent, including such elements as walls, ceilings, tables, hoods, benches, and seating.

Healthy Environments

In addition to health and safety considerations, improved indoor environmental conditions helps to increase productivity and is appealing to current and prospective researchers. State of the art research spaces must be attractive, well lit, comfortable and conducive to the overall well-being of its users over long periods of time. Improved indoor environmental quality is consistent with goals of sustainability, workplace efficiency, and overall occupant satisfaction.

The long-term value delivered by each of these target areas is specific to groups within the larger organization. To principal investigators value is improved scientific results and new research breakthroughs; to administrators and business stakeholders the value is faster speed of product delivery to market; to facilities managers decreased cost of construction, operations and maintenance each add value to their portfolio. For patients and recipients of new and improved pharmaceutical products, the value is inestimable.