Making Labs More Efficient

An interview with Tobias Wingbermuehle, Co-Founder, Clustermarket
March 30, 2022
 Tobias Wingbermuehle, Co-Founder, Clustermarket

New ideas to solve unmet needs can arise anywhere. A university  lecture on frugal innovation sparked the imagination of three entrepreneurs who went on to found Clustermarket, which provides a leading solution that helps labs become more efficient. We are delighted to share our conversation with Tobias Wingbermuehle, Co-Founder of Clustermarket, who recently joined the Tetra Partner Network.

Please tell us about your background and what motivated you to co-found Clustermarket.

I completed my Bachelor in sport science, and I worked at the Institute of Cardiology of the German Sport University. That’s where I first experienced problems finding and getting access to the equipment that I needed to complete my studies. 

The actual idea for Clustermarket was sparked when I got my Master of International Business degree at Hult International Business School in London. I attended a guest lecture on frugal innovation by Niklas Friedberg, who is now the Co-Founder and COO of Clustermarket. The key takeaway for this lecture was that science clusters in the developed world can learn from principles adopted in the third world, where innovation has been achieved through more transparency and sharing of resources. The idea of Clustermarket developed during a conversation in the pub between Niklas, Johannes Solzbach, who is now the CEO of Clustermarket, and me. Our original idea was to start a marketplace for scientific services and equipment to create more transparency within science clusters, ultimately creating the “AirBnB for scientists”. 

However, we pivoted from a pure marketplace where you find R&D services and access equipment in nearby organizations to a lab management solution to manage labs within an organization. 

What types of customers and labs does Clustermarket serve?

We are proud to say that we provide our software solution to more than 9,000 labs worldwide, including large pharma, fast growing SMEs and academic institutions. We mainly work with R&D labs in the life sciences, pharma and chemistry sector. 

How would you describe Clustermarket’s benefits to customers?

We make labs more efficient. Lab managers get a tool to manage equipment access, coordinate maintenance activities and gain equipment utilization insights which help make better lab ops decisions. Additionally, the research teams can easily schedule workflows on equipment they need and are aware of all lab related incidents. 

What are the hurdles for organizations to adopt a shared laboratory?

Working with team members on the same equipment requires professional and responsible usage of the equipment and good communication between the team. Equipment reservations, instrument breakdowns/incidents and maintenance activities need to be clearly communicated within the team as well. 

How important are partnerships to you and what do you see as the benefits of joining the Tetra Partner Network?

Many organizations choose digital tools to remove silos and all laboratory technology should fully integrate with other systems to remove the risk of creating further silos. Integration has been key to the development of next-generation digital laboratory tools with some R&D data platforms going so far as to combine ELNs and LIMSs into one system or building partnership networks such as the Tetra Partner Network.

We have seen the benefits of working with digital tools in hundreds of lab environments. Good lab management tools provide a seamless and barrier free movement between different digital tools. If this is the case, it helps to increase adoption and dramatically reduce the administrative workload for both scientists and managers – leaving team members available for value-added work.

How are your customers benefiting from centralizing the management and coordination of maintenance contracts and activities?

Having a tool as one source of truth for maintenance related information (vendor agnostic) and having the possibility to communicate, streamline and schedule related activities in the same software, reduces admin work and lowers the risk of forgetting or miscommunicating maintenance related information. 

How does Clustermarket’s offering help improve science, and scientific outcomes?

Equipping research teams with a tool to use their equipment more efficiently, making sure they have access to the instruments when they need it and improving the communication around lab operation related incidents, helps to get to the scientific outcome quicker and with less headaches. 

ClusterMarket has been involved with the Merck Accelerator Program and more recently announced participation in a EU-funded project in Germany.  Please tell us more about this.

The Merck Accelerator program was the start of Clustermarket, which allowed our three founders to begin working full time. This was the first funding Clustermarket received. 

Through a EU-funded project, and together with leading science parks in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) Germany, Clustermarket equips local universities, SMEs and large enterprises with a digital tool to manage labs, instruments and share R&D capabilities. By providing the platform to all stakeholders in NRW, Clustermarket helps ensure the scientific resources in NRW are being used in a smarter and more efficient way, as well as ensuring easier accessibility to the unused assets. More than 200 labs in NRW have already registered on Clustermarket and there are more to come in 2022.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Next on the horizon, Clustermarket will add Internet of Things capabilities so that customers will be able to view real time parameters in the software and additional utilization insights. This will allow researchers to check parameters such as humidity and temperature directly on our platform. Furthermore, Custermarket has launched integrations to ELNs and financial integrations, and there is more to come this year!