Innovations in Science: The Pop-Up Retail Experience Comes to Science

The “pop-up” store concept that is increasingly popular for seasonal retail such as Halloween and Christmas is starting to make inroads into science research. Imagine the cost savings of not having to invest in high overhead and purchase expensive lab equipment, but be able to rent or borrow on an as-needed basis or, better yet, just create a virtual lab environment on a computer.

The tech business has benefitted from this concept for decades. Many of the world’s largest technology companies, now worth billions, had modest beginnings. These include garages (Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Amazon), dorm rooms (Facebook, Dell, BOX), restaurants and coffee shops where young coders have access to free Wi-Fi and a steady supply of caffeine (PayPal, Foursquare, Yelp), a motel room (Microsoft) and even obscure locations like a park (Twitter) and bus station (Dropbox).

Let’s be clear on one thing, for some fields of research, especially certain physics and bio disciplines, virtual labs will never truly replace a well-stocked and equipped laboratory with a full complement of research staff. However, for early start-ups or smaller academic facilities with limited resources, cloud-based virtual scientific infrastructure can be a tremendous asset. There are a number of market places for contract research, for example, that allow researchers to order experiments from some of the world’s best labs. But inspiration can happen anywhere, anytime, so access to web-based systems for provisioning computational experiments, on-demand high performance computing services and, more recently, scientific discovery by artificial intelligence creates enormous potential for new breakthroughs.

As a business, the scientific community is under the same pressure as any other entity. Overhead needs to be kept to a minimum, and the ROI on funding dollars is under the microscope. The recent Research and Development Efficiency Act passed by the House Committee on Science, Space —> Read More