Gabriele Verbickaite*

* Corresponding authors: gverbickaite@clustermarket.com

Clustermarket 84 Wood Lane London, W12 0BZ United Kingdom

Abstract: Clustermarket - a software company based in London, UK, provides a platform for scientists, engineers and other technology pioneers to access lab equipment in nearby institutions and find the best service providers. Clustermarket also provides a lab booking system (Bookkit) for academic research facilities and industrial laboratories that want to manage their lab infrastructure in the most efficient way.

Keywords: Clustermarket, Bookkit, scientific research, innovation, sharing economy, lab instruments, laboratory booking system

1. The success story

Clustermarket, founded in 2015 by three university students Niklas Friedberg, Tobias Wingbermuehle and Johannes Solzbach in London, United Kingdom, has been a great success story. The high cost of research equipment and services has traditionally always been a barrier for the commercialisation of research and innovation in science. The idea was to build a world-leading online sharing platform for life science researchers with the goal to democratise access to expensive laboratory equipment and services. With Clustermarket’s aim to enable life science innovators to take their ideas to market faster and cheaper they, in 2018 decided to provide scientists with a tool that would not only enable collaboration and transparency between research institutions, but also help them manage all activities within their lab. Thus another set of features under the brand name Bookkit was launched while Clustermarket continued to grow exponentially, reaching over 6,000 registered labs on the platform (April 2021). While many labs were using pen and paper to manage their equipment related activities, Bookkit introduced an elegant solution that has already proven its worth during 2019-2020 as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Bookkit is being used globally at some of the most respected research institutions and scientific companies. Now, Clustermarket aims to become the end-to-end equipment management platform – the laboratory operating system for the lab of the future, connecting with other digital lab solutions such as ELNs and IoT solutions.

2. How did we start

In 2015, during their MSc studies at the Hult International Business school, Niklas Friedberg, Tobias Wingbermuehle and Johannes Solzbach met during their classes and started discussing the idea of creating a marketplace where laboratory equipment could be rented “just” like one would rent apartments on Airbnb. The three students then decided to pitch the idea to universities like UCL and Oxford University, to connect with as many potential users as possible. Besides talking to potential users, the three founders started reaching out to investors to receive an initial funding to begin developing the marketplace. After their graduation, with zero financial resources Niklas, Tobias and Johannes decided to finance themselves. Niklas and Tobias moved back to Germany working for different companies and shared their salary with Johannes, so he could keep on working on their startup. Following a first investment from Giovanni Rizzo, a well known expert in the biotech industry, winning UCL as a first user and then getting accepted in the Merck Accelerator was the real starting point for the founding team. Niklas and Tobias quit their jobs and started working full time with the financial support of the initial investment and the Merck Accelerator Program. Additionally, they hired more developers to work on the prototype and acquired more users. Johannes immediately started raising the first angel round to prepare the launch of the marketplace one year later. Niklas leading the development of the marketplace, was working closely with the first users to create the right feature set for the users. Whilst, Tobias was pivoting the best sales and marketing channels to win new users.

Figure 1. The founders of Clustermarket.

3. Why is it needed?

In recent years the world has witnessed the evolution of research based clusters within and between research institutions. The cluster-based approach has influenced local, regional and national economic development policy worldwide. In parallel to clusters, the sharing economy has evolved and today it is one of the fastest-growing business trends in history. This is having a massive impact on our society and how we view ownership and rental. With the sharing economy it has become much easier to locate services and goods, while the internet and sharing platforms have allowed easy and regularised transactions and lowered risk when sharing amongst strangers. Well-known examples such as Airbnb and Uber demonstrate how society’s perception around sharing has fundamentally changed. The core principle of the sharing economy – unlocking under-utilised resources or skills – is what makes it such a powerful accelerator for every industry and sector to which it is applied. Yet, many research institutions are reluctant to share. Those that do attempt to share resources find that there is limited visibility of, and access to, equipment and services. Equipment bookings within and between laboratories are often haphazard and locked into silos, while resource management is inefficient. Thus Clustermarket taps into the sharing economy by providing a platform that acts both as a lab equipment booking system and a shared resource marketplace which enables researchers and institutions to gain access to essential resources and services that might be crucial for important product development.

Figure 2. The science ecosystem.

4. The journey so far

Having started off only 5 years ago Clustermarket has already seen many achievements during its existence as well as having grown a huge customer base. By focusing on researcher needs and user feedback, Clustermarket has built an easy-to-use booking system called Bookkit that helps organise equipment and service bookings within research facilities. The customer-centric approach, constant support and feedback reviews have helped Clustermarket grow their business and create a tool that is used in many academic research facilities and industrial laboratories that want to manage their lab infrastructure in the most efficient way.

To this day Clustermarket has shown solid and rapid growth having over 65,000 instruments on the platform as well as over 56,000 users from over 6,000 laboratories all around the world. Clustermarket is proud to have world renowned research institutions and companies such as Harvard University, Stanford University, MIT, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Illumina, Cytiva and many others using their platform.

Figure 3. A snapshot of research institutions using Clustermarket | Bookkit.

5. Who is involved?

Having begun as a 3-person start-up Clustermarket now consists of 14 employees. With support over the years the company managed to continue growing and expanding from the UK to other countries. Clustermarket is proudly backed by Merck Group, Kadans Science Partner, Axon Capital Partners, the London Co-Investment Fund and visionary business angels such as Jonathan Milner.

6. Looking to the future

With the constant growth and worldwide expansion Clustermarket is aiming to become the leading operating system for scientists and researchers by leveraging the power of clusters. From improving the utilisation of existing resources to making research and innovation faster, cheaper and better, Clustermarket continues to work towards achieving its goals. While continuously improving, Clustermarket has already built a user-friendly platform that helps manage and book lab instruments remotely, control lab access and easily communicate with lab members.

Next on the horizon, the team has their eye on partnerships with equipment manufacturers. They are piloting remote lab management solutions with various equipment manufacturers that would allow lab managers to remotely monitor different instruments in the lab and, of course, tie this in with demand for the equipment via their lab booking system. They also have plans to offer solutions through integrations of other research solutions, such as an electronic notebook, facilities for ordering consumables and maintenance scheduling, including the potential to incorporate machine learning to intelligently predict a user’s needs.

References

[1] “Make your lab digital”, Clustermarket LTD, https://www.clustermarket.com/, accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

[2] Bookkit Website “Intelligent Lab Booking System”, Clustermarket LTD, https://www.bookkit.org/, accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

[3] “Leveraging the Power of Collaboration through Clusters”, Clustermarket LTD, https://www.clustermarket.com/white-paper, accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

[4] “New Platform Bridges Valley of Death for Life Science”, Clustermarket LTD, https://www.clustermarket.com/articles/new-platform-bridges-valley-of-death, accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

[5] “A new approach to life science research?”, Manufacturing Chemist, https://www.manufacturingchemist.com/news/article_page/A_new_approach_to_life_scienc e_research/134112, accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

The company



Clustermarket
84 Wood Lane
London, W12 0BZ
United Kingdom
https://www.clustermarket.com/

Gabriele Verbickaite is a Junior Marketing Manager at Clustermarket. After finishing her BSc in Communications at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Gabriele decided to move to the United Kingdom and continue her education at Birkbeck, University of London. After graduating with an MSc in Marketing she joined the Clustermarket team to continue her career in Marketing. Having previously worked across Marketing and Copywriting fields for over 6 years Gabriele established a strong knowledge of digital marketing, advertising and content marketing.