In the space of a few years, co-working setups have evolved from being a bit of an oddity to becoming the preferred way to mitigate risk in science entrepreneurship. In Singapore, co-working laboratories have even become key to serving the needs of the country’s innovators and investors as well as its globally important chemical, biotech, and pharmaceutical industries.
If you’re looking for a co-working laboratory in Singapore, here are 10 important capabilities you should make sure it is able to meet before renting the space:
1. Meets or Exceeds Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) Standards
The most important biotech, pharma, and chemical research activities will require at least a biosafety level 2 laboratory.
A certified BSL-2 laboratory offers the minimum safety standards needed to effectively contain pathogens and other materials that are considered moderate health hazards. These may include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), certain encephalitis viruses, and some types of staphylococcus bacteria. Personnel in these labs are subject to appropriate safety protocols and the facilities have features needed to contain hazardous agents. If your start-up needs to handle harmful agents, a co-working laboratory that is rated BSL-2 or above is what you’ll need to rent.
2. Storage Facilities for Both Hazardous Substances and Class 3 Flammable Materials
Hazardous and flammable materials need to be stored in appropriate temperature-controlled storage units. When possible, it’s best to have a laboratory that has appropriate storage facilities on site rather than in a separate offsite facility. Having onsite storage can significantly reduce the risks associated with transporting hazardous materials and also increases overall convenience for researchers.
3. High-Quality HVAC Systems and HEPA Filters
Lab leaks are a known phenomenon that can happen when a facility fails to meet safety protocols or lacks the proper equipment to keep the test area secure. As such, in addition to biological safety cabinets, self-closing doors, and other standard BSL-2 features, laboratory-grade HVAC systems and HEPA filters serve as another line of defence that prevents airborne agents from leaving the lab and posing a serious threat to the outside world.
If the co-working laboratory you’re interested in does not have adequate filtration and HVAC systems, you may need to look for other options.
4. Connections to Mentors and Financiers
One of the best things about using a co-working lab is the networks that you could build with other innovators. Some labs are better able to facilitate these connections than others, so choosing one that is likely to put you in touch with mentors and potential investors can be a big plus.
5. Access to Qualified CRO Support and Other Service Providers
Many businesses that require co-working laboratories can benefit from access to contract research organisations (CROs). CROs let researchers offload some of their labour requirements to qualified third-party laboratory workers, making them a great option for expanding capacity and meeting tight project timelines. A co-working lab that offers ready access to CROs and other critical third-party service providers can, therefore, make it easier for researchers to focus on hitting their most important goals.
6. Regular Scheduled Maintenance of Facilities and Equipment
It’s one thing to have good quality equipment and a completely different thing to maintain it. Proper and regular maintenance of facilities and equipment helps prevent the contamination of specimens and helps improve safety, both of which are key considerations in a BSL-2 laboratory. Be sure to ask your prospective co-working laboratories about maintenance schedules before renting them.
7. Good Prices for Consumable Items
High-level biotech, pharma, and chemical research uses up a lot of consumables, particularly reagents and PPEs. The cost of these consumables can add up and quickly eat into a start-up’s overhead expenses. Choosing a co-working lab that offers reasonable prices for the consumables you need can therefore be a huge advantage.
8. Backup Power for Critical Storage
While power interruptions are exceedingly rare in Singapore, these events can still present a serious problem to the integrity and safety of stored specimens. If you can choose between different co-working labs, it just makes more sense to pick the one that can keep your stored specimens safe in case of unexpected outages.
9. Hazardous Waste Removal
Not all labs will necessarily offer onsite waste removal services. Unfortunately, transporting hazardous waste to an offsite facility can be a difficult and complex task, especially when large volumes of material are involved. Choosing a co-working lab that offers onsite hazardous chemical and biological waste removal services will, therefore, simplify your workflow and help keep your researchers focused on other more important tasks.
10. Private Office and Event Spaces
It’s best to choose a co-working lab with private spaces that you could book for presentations and discussing sensitive matters. As with any co-working space, co-working labs are hives of activity, which means there will be some distractions in most of the common areas. Having a private space onsite can be especially convenient for those times you need to catch up on paperwork, talk to investors, or study your data without being disturbed.
Co-working labs offer a good mix of convenience, flexibility, and reasonable capabilities at good prices, making them a great fit for budding biotechnology and pharmaceutical innovators. Choosing a lab with the right capabilities should help bring your start-up further by reducing its overheads while providing your operation with the resources and services it needs to succeed.