Our Association ist still quite young, however, it was important for us to have the opportunity to workin our own labs to lettheory and practice do the trick inevaluating new ideas. But what if we weremissing special equipment that we would need to keepon going? For example, in case of massanalytics, there is no way it would be cost efficient to buy an expensive piece of equipment just forsome tests that mightproof our initional idea wrong. This question might also bediscussed amongStart-Ups from the biological or medical field, posessing only little amount of money. On the otherhand, proof ofprinciplesare necessary for fund raising in most cases,leading to„thechicken andtheegg problem“: no money to show the proof-of-principle, but no proof-of-principle without money.Although we are not facing missing laboratory infrastructure right now,we wanted to inform ourselvesabout possibilities just in case.

Therefore, we participated on a virtual meeting on the 3rd of march, entitled Start-ups und wissenschaftliche Einrichtungen durch den Zugang zu Laborgeräten und FuE-Kapazitäten fördern! „Kick-off des Clustermarket Marketplaces in der Metropole Ruhr!“ which would translate into Supporting Start-Ups and scientific institutions by making laboratory infrastructure accessible! with the kick-off event for the Clustermarket Marketplace in the german Ruhrgebiet. The event was hold by the Ruhr University Bochum (Ruhruniversität, RUB) together with Oliver Bohnkamp, who is engaged in the BioIndustry Association (https://www.bioindustry.de/) and in the Competence Center for Biological Safety called Biosecurity (https://www.bio-security.de/). The main topic was the KLIC.RUHR – competence network Lifesciences.Ruhr, which would adress the problem of lacking scientific infrastructure mentioned above. The problem should be adressed in two aspects.

The first aspect would be a network of research institutes to pool and complement their individual infrastructure and make it accessible for other investigators as well. For example, the technology centers Bochum, Witten, Dortmund and Bönen were the first participants for such a network to provide basic as well as special scientific infrastructure for Start-Ups and other scientists or institutions.

The second aspect adressed the management of such a pooled infrastructure, managing the information of available machines, lab space and services. For this, a lab software-based system was developed, which runs unter the name clustermarket (https://clustermarket.com/) and which was presented by one of its founders, Tobias Wingbehrmühle. To get an idea of what clustermarket specifically does, the background of its development over time was quite interesting. At first, it should provide information about the infrastructure in an internal network. Besides the list of machines, the software would track information about their run-time, maintenance, calibration data and responsible staff. With this data, one can see the workload of the machines and open time slots. This information can be used in two ways: if the workload would be near 100%, the collected data would be a good argument in a grant to fund additional machines, while the machines could be open to be borrowed or used by external people if not fully used. Thus, one could also make some needed extra money by sharing their infrastructure with others.

If universities would offer their infrastructure to start ups or external people with economic intent, it could be problematic because publicly funded infrastructure would be a competition for not-publicly funded infrastructure on the open market. However, according to T. Wingbehrmühle, different participating universities already showed that it is possible, but that it needs to be clarified beforehand with the authorities or funding institutions (like for example the german DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft)) by which the infrastructure was originally funded. Being well aware of this problem, the people from clustermarket would offer assistance for cost calculations as well as for the invoicing for the provided infrastructure. That being said, it was also interesting to note that the use of clustermarket would be free of charge due to the EU- and EFRE funding of this project.

There were many interesting questions from university stuff and Start-Ups among the audience, for example how the invoicing would work (response: either by clustermarket or by the provider itself) and how the data privacy would be adressed (response: by EU law, since the servers are distributed among France and Germany). One Start-Up was a little bit concerned about confidentiality within their labs: if they would offer their machines for rent and usage, other people would enter their lab and might see prototypes not meant to be seen by the public. Regarding this question, most providers would offer a service to process the samples with their machines themselves, thereby preventing other people entering their labs. Additionally, there is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) enclosed in the clustermarke´ts terms of use, according to Tobias Wingbehrmühle. Another interesting question was about liability: what would happen if an offered machine would be damaged during usage? Most university would cover this possibility via a liability insurance. Another aspect of liability would be about the generated data with the machine. What if the machine would be damaged or falsely calibrated, thus producing false data and possible economic damage? Regarding this question, most universities would deal with that possibility via a special contract, excluding their liability for falsely generated data.

What conclusion do we draw from this for GENAWIF? For us, it is important to know about this marketplace, because it is very likely that we might depend on external ressources at some points. Since the usage is free of charge, clustermarket might the the first place to browse the offerings presented by different providers either in the viccinity, within germany or abroad. With our club seat in Aachen, providers from the netherlands or belgium would also be quite near to us. On the other hand, our association even might offer some services, and clustermarket may be the right platform to start with? In the end, we have to say that we only heard from clustermarket and that we have no experience with it ourselves, but we found this information quite useful and wanted to spread the word for others in need for laboratory infrastructure!

A Marketplace to rent or borrow laboratory infrastructure?

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