December Spotlight

BPI Staff

December 13, 2017

8 Min Read

Revealed: Where Scientists Want to Work

When you’re in the business of life-science innovation, highly trained employees are worth every penny. That’s why biotechnology companies pay top dollar for amenities-rich locations and facilities in the top US life-science real estate markets, according to Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL’s) Life Sciences Outlook published this past summer. JLL is a professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Its report says that life-science professionals have high expectations for their workplaces.

“With Millennials often at the center of talent recruitment, life-science companies are seeking spaces that improve employee well being,” said Roger Humphrey, executive managing director and leader of JLL’s life-science group. “Some are following the lead of technology companies to create workplaces that engage, inspire, attract, and retain talent because the people are the business.”

The demand for highly skilled labor from a limited pool of candidates has driven sustained wage growth as well. The average annual salary for R&D professionals has reached US$135,000 in the past five years while the average salary in biotech has increased 19.2%. Many companies remain in top-tier clusters despite rising laboratory rent and R&D costs. Given the high cost of replacing valuable research talent, they are prioritizing locations, facilities, and workplaces that improve staff well being, and some property owners are responding with grand life sciences parks.

For example, The Alexandria at Torrey Pines in the San Diego area is a suburban campus with shared amenities boasting a fitness center, restaurant and bar, and patio. That creates an urban-like communal, collaborative environment beyond that of a typical office park. In San Francisco, CA, The Cove at Oyster Point will be a seven-building campus with amenities that are open to the public (e.g., bocce ball courts, a bowling alley, and a full gym).

Greater Boston, MA, and the San Francisco Bay Area continue to reign atop the US life-science clusters, with common characteristics such as world-class academic institutions, top-notch research facilities, and a tightly knit medical community. Cities making up the rest of the top 10 in 2017 are San Diego, CA; the Raleigh–Durham metro area (think Research Triangle Park) in North Carolina; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Los Angeles, CA; Seattle, WA; a cluster of towns in New Jersey; and Minneapolis, MN.

Workplace Trends Inspire the Future of Life Sciences Real Estate: Innovation relies on happy, engaged, and productive people, especially in the competitive biotechnology industry. In another report published this past fall, JLL says that workplace trends are shaping the future of life sciences. Life Sciences Workplace Insights says that biotech professionals have high expectations for their workplace. In a recent JLL survey of >7,000 employees in multiple industries (including life sciences) 70% agreed that happiness at work is the best ingredient for a unique work experience. When the design of the workplace caters to employee needs, they are more likely to feel fulfilled and be productive.

“As the pressure to innovate and the unrelenting war for talent continues, progressive life-science companies are viewing their real estate and facilities as much more than just laboratory and office space,” said Humphrey. “Real estate is becoming a vital part of innovation strategy by providing the places and spaces that bring the best ideas to life.”

As the importance of workplace appeal grows, the report highlights three emerging trends related to location selection, amenities, and costs.

Some companies are getting creative in their location selection. Major life-science clusters offer an environment that is hard to mimic. Companies pay high costs to be near hard-to-find talent that is the lifeblood of biopharmaceutical innovation. So laboratory space is scarce (vacancy rates <10%), and rents continue to rise in the top 10 clusters. Meanwhile, new urban laboratory developments are under way in areas such as Cambridge, MA, and Houston, TX.

Unique amenities improve the employee experience. The newest facilities offer rich amenities. And although high-quality food and on-site gyms are nice, smaller perks also contribute to employee satisfaction. In JLL’s Workplace: Powered by Human Experience report, 50% of employees say they simply want a place to recharge their energy. Setting aside a small space for meditation or rooms they can book for intense periods of focus provides a much-needed productivity boost. Meanwhile, open floor plans that spark collaboration are becoming more common, as some new laboratories include small collaboration spaces near their research benches.

Rising costs are offset by gains in workplace efficiency, flexibility, and productivity. Forward-looking companies are optimizing facilities to boost efficiency while improving employee engagement, empowerment, and collaboration. Laboratories with plug-and-play research equipment, movable benches, and multiple access points for utilities can accommodate different kinds of research. In such adaptable spaces, scientists can share space even while working on different projects. This flexibility helps companies stay competitive as business objectives change. Using space more efficiently helps control total real estate costs.

“Life-science companies see new possibilities for their real estate and how they can attract and retain the industry’s top talent,” Humphrey said. “While workplaces of the future require investment, all signs point to these investments paying off in talent and innovation. Offering a workplace that caters to employee needs helps companies keep their talent engaged and productive.”

JLL’s annual Life Sciences Outlook report tracks geographic shifts in life-science innovation, operations, and facilities investments. It includes an analysis of markets actively investing in their life-science sectors along with that ranking of top US life-science clusters and highlighting global trends. JLL’s Life Sciences Workplace Insights report details how companies can use their workplace to attract talent and builds on the annual Life Sciences Outlook report’s results. Find more information online at

Computing/Robotics and the Future of Work

Companies of all sizes are considering and moving toward digitalization and automation in the workplace. According to a July 2017 report from Markets and Markets, mobile robotics in material handling and logistics should become a US$75 billion market by 2027 and could be more than double the current valuation by 2038.

Digitalization is playing an increasingly important role in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Many companies are considering whether and how they can benefit from it. Software developer United Planet surveyed SMEs in early 2017 about their business processes and communication and published its results in i-SCOOP ( According to the article, “Digitalization means the use of digital technologies and of data (digitized and natively digital) to create revenue, improve business, replace/transform business processes (not simply digitizing them) and create an environment for digital business, whereby information is at the core.”

Opinions surrounding digitalization ranged from progressive optimism to conservative skepticism. Most companies surveyed already recognize the importance of digitalization, with 84% feeling positive about it. However, only 11% of interviewees were currently implementing a central digital working environment. Such “digital workplaces” can encourage collaboration and information exchange. But providing employees with convenient tools that can be used intuitively is a challenge — and they may find their own solutions that are not necessarily secure. Email is still the most-used method of internal information exchange, but some companies are replacing it with social collaboration tools (20.5%) and messaging (19.7%).

The authors emphasize that it’s “not about digitalizing the workplace. It’s not even about digitalizing the work.” It’s about improving the provision and availability of information, increasing the quality and speed of business process modeling, and helping people make better decisions and interact with colleagues or third-parties to do so. Find the complete study results online at

A recent report from IDTechEx focuses on mobile robotics in material handling and logistics. Mobile Robots and Drones in Material Handling and Logistics 2017–2037 highlights automated guided vehicles and carts (AGVs, AGCs), autonomous mobile vehicles, mobile picking robots, last-mile delivery ground robots and drones, and autonomous trucks.

Already a mature technology, AGVs transport payloads of several kilograms to multiple tons, essentially acting as semirigid conveyer belts to cover large areas. Multiple options range from those with low-cost wire or magnetic tape guidance to increasingly popular laser-guided systems. All require some degree of infrastructure modification and on-site installation. Next-generation navigation technology will be infrastructure-independent but require new software modalities. The report predicts that sales of AGVs will grow but then decline over the next 20 years as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) begin to replace AGVs even beyond the structured confines of warehouses and factories.

Navigational autonomy eventually could replace human-driven forklifts with autonomous industrial vehicles. AMRs give automation the flexibility and versatility of human-operated vehicles. IDTechEx believes that autonomous forklifts will remain a tiny share of the global market until around 2023, when they should increase rapidly in adoption. The forecast model shows how mobile picking units will evolve through different phases of performance (subhuman, approaching human, and potentially exceeding human) over the 20-year period for both regular and irregular/mixed shaped items.

Autonomous mobile delivery robots currently are small, slow-moving units that must return frequently to a charging station. They need close supervision and can operate only in sparsely populated and highly structured environments. So they are often dismissed as gimmicks. However, robots now in development will be more adept at path planning and object avoidance, with increased autonomous mobility capability. Find more information online at

A Tool for Evaluating and Comparing the Sustainability of Raw Materials

This past summer, MilliporeSigma introduced the DOZN tool, a quantitative evaluator based on the 12 principles of green chemistry. It provides a consistent framework for measuring and communicating what’s “green” about products labeled as such. The principles distill into three major categories: improving resource use, more efficient use of energy, and minimizing human and environmental hazards. Life-cycle impacts of raw materials (e.g., raw material extraction, preprocessing, and manufacture) are not yet incorporated into the assessment, but their hazards and efficiency are. Find more information online at


In Verna Frasca’s “Moving DSC Downstream“ (BPI October 2017), we erroneously attributed case study work to a Malvern team. The work reported in the “Identifying Optimal Elution Conditions” section was performed by Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnology. See online for a corrected file (

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