White Paper

Optimizing Lab Management: A 2023 VFP Research Study

May 21, 2024
By Venture Forward Partners

Optimizing Laboratory Management for Enhanced Efficiency and Innovation

Executive Summary:

While research is the main focus of the lab, the management of the lab itself is an intrinsic component of the quality of the research being conducted. When a lab isn’t run correctly things can go wrong quickly and those things can affect everything in the lab, including the people. For instance, deferred maintenance can lead to downtime if an important piece of equipment becomes unavailable, poor inventory management can result in running out of supplies or trouble locating stock, and overwhelming scientists and staff with mundane tasks can make them less efficient in their more important research work.

A well-run lab ensures that the research being conducted is both safe, efficient and able to perform its research unimpeded. Utilizing staff appropriately leads to better science and higher morale. Unfortunately, the time, resources and expertise required to ensure that labs are run correctly is often underestimated. Through our research study, Venture Forward Partners has identified key areas where lab management inefficiencies persist.

This white paper discusses the issues facing laboratories that decision-makers need to be aware of if they want their research and innovation to proceed as successfully as possible.


Innovative labs are the lifeblood of scientific advancement. However, to keep labs innovating at full capacity requires staff that maintain efficient operations. Unfortunately, the operational complexities of running a lab are frequently underappreciated. When stakeholders take operations for granted, it leads to inefficiencies that can stifle progress and innovation. To get back on track, labs must recognize the core activities that require a lab manager’s attention, understand the need for specialized support, and explore options for alternative resource models. In this white paper, we’ll review common misconceptions and pitfalls around lab operations.


At Venture Forward Partners, we partner with labs and their lab managers. While this experience is foundational to our work with clients, our approach to identifying common problems and their solutions is based on an integrated research process using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, along with other industry datasets. This multi-pronged methodology ensures a thorough understanding of the lab management landscape, enabling us to assess and enhance operational efficacy comprehensively.

For the quantitative aspect of our research, we surveyed 300 professionals in the lab services industry through a combination of online professional networks and industry-specific social media groups. This ensured a diverse and representative sample of the laboratory population. Participants were carefully selected to cover a wide spectrum of roles, including lab managers, technicians, and researchers/scientists, across various demographics such as age, gender, geographical location, and sector of specialization.

The research study was crafted to include sections that evaluate the participants’ experiences and challenges in lab management. This ranged from questions about daily operational tasks to safety protocol compliance and data-driven decision-making. We how they spent their time and what resources were available to them. We also looked at the extent to which they worked with senior management, especially during the design phase of the lab.

Data collection was conducted via a secure online platform, with the research study designed to take no more than 15 minutes to respect the valuable time of participants. We ensured informed consent, guaranteeing anonymity and confidentiality for all responses. To uphold the robustness of our data, the research study balanced closed-ended questions for quantitative ease with open-ended responses to capture the depth of participants’ insights.

Upon study completion, we employed data analysis tools to discern patterns, draw out trends, and investigate correlations. This provided us with an intricate view of the current state of lab management, the challenges faced, and the opportunities for enhancement.

The Unseen Investment of Lab Management

“Role Creep”: The Expanding Role Of Scientists Can Hurt Business Performance

The life of a research lab is dynamic and multifaceted, demanding a concerted effort that is often underestimated. Within these innovative ecosystems, highly skilled scientists are the driving force behind new discoveries and advancements. Yet, too often, these same individuals are sidetracked by the pressing demands of daily lab operations. This is known as “role creep”–the slow expansion of a person’s role into other roles. This diversion not only dilutes the potency of their expertise but also leads to systemic inefficiencies.

In our research, we found that a majority of respondents (62%) report that a significant amount of their time is consumed by the operational upkeep of the lab. These include tasks such as inventory management, equipment maintenance, and compliance tracking, which, while all critical to the lab’s function, do not leverage the scientists’ specialized training.

Additionally, the research showed that approximately 44% of the laboratory workforce feel the strain of being overstretched, a clear indication of insufficient resources being available. In many of these cases, scientists indicated that they felt torn between their charge to deliver innovation, and performing all of the lab management work. This type of situation can lead to burnout among staff and departures of top talent.

When they begin to feel overstretched, scientists tend to lean in on the administrative tasks rather than their lab work. This is because there is more risk to getting lab operations wrong than there is by getting behind schedule on innovative lab work. This notable shift in focus towards administrative logistics leaves labs behind the curve in their scientific goals and their pace of innovation.

This is why a separate role for lab management is key. Not only do they let scientists do what they’ve been trained to do, but they also decrease the strain of being overstretched, decrease feelings of burnout and the loss of great talent, and can even protect companies from going out of business.

Strategic Delegation Is Critical To Support Fast Growing Labs

To counteract these challenges, a strategic realignment is essential. Scientists must be repositioned to focus on what they do best: pushing the boundaries of knowledge. In parallel, the role of lab operations should be entrusted to professional managers or specialized service providers. This reallocation of roles and responsibilities can transform the lab environment, as seen in our research.

Generally speaking, there was an increase in job satisfaction between labs that had a designated lab manager compared to labs that had a scientist also managing the lab. More specifically, those who had an internal resource manager reported increased job satisfaction. In the research study over half of respondents acknowledge lab management as being of primary importance. The data suggests that specialized management can significantly enhance both operational efficiency and employee morale.

The majority of respondents acknowledge lab management as being of primary importance. This acknowledgment underscores a growing awareness within the scientific community of the need to prioritize operational excellence. The path to achieving such a transformation is not always easy. It requires a careful evaluation of internal capabilities, a strategic plan for integrating external support, and a sustained commitment to operational excellence. But by doing so, research labs can not only optimize their day-to-day processes but also create an environment that nurtures scientific inquiry and innovation.

Lab Safety: A Critical Overlooked Component

Strategies for Enhanced Lab Safety Measures:

Our findings indicate a concerning landscape where only about half (49%) of labs have implemented a dedicated safety management system, an essential tool for preventing accidents and ensuring regulatory compliance. Nearly a quarter (24%) of labs have given minimal consideration to safety procedures during the initial design phase of their facilities. Such oversight does not merely risk non-compliance with industry standards and best practices, it may also endanger staff and risk contamination.

A sustained commitment to operational excellence can be hard if your staff is feeling overburdened. When that happens things can easily be overlooked–even things as important as safety protocols. Safety protocols are a cornerstone of lab operations, yet our research shows that they are not always given due attention.

Our research found that 57% of labs spend 10 hours or less on safety documentation per week. Proactive safety planning is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental component of a responsible lab management strategy. It requires a detailed understanding of the specific safety needs intrinsic to the variety of tasks performed within a lab and an adherence to ever-evolving safety regulations. Labs need someone dedicated to staying up-to-date with these changing regulations and requirements.

This is one reason our clients recommend outsourcing this aspect of lab management to specialized professionals. Not only do you free up time for your scientists to focus on the science, but you also use professionals who run safety procedures for multiple labs and stay current on regulation requirements. Their experience with safety rules and requirements is much greater than someone trying to keep up when they are already overwhelmed by their workload.

Leveraging Data for Streamlined Lab Operations

Inefficiencies in Laboratory Workflow

Laboratory workflow efficiency is a critical factor that directly impacts productivity and the capacity for innovation. However, our research highlights a gap with minimal or no consideration of workflow efficiency given during the planning and design stages of their lab development. This lack of foresight can lead to significant bottlenecks, redundancies, over-spending on lab resources, and under-achieving on operational performance.

Further compounding this issue is the underutilization of available technology designed to enhance workflow. This represents not only a missed opportunity for optimization but also suggests a wider gap in the adoption of digital tools that could provide substantial gains in efficiency and data management.

To harness the full potential of data in streamlining lab operations, the following steps are essential:

  • Workflow Analysis: By examining the data on time spent on various tasks, resource usage, and process outcomes, labs can pinpoint inefficiencies with precision.
  • Customized Software Solutions: Data analytics can inform the development of tools to address the unique challenges and opportunities of each laboratory.
  • Predictive Modeling: Utilizing data to not only understand current operations but to also enable labs to proactively adjust their workflows and resource allocations to meet anticipated demands.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Providing lab managers and decision-makers with real-time data to make informed choices can lead to a more responsive lab environment.
  • Training and Development: A workforce that is skilled in data literacy can contribute significantly to ongoing process improvements.
  • Continuous Improvement: In a culture of continuous improvement powered by data, labs can engage in an iterative process of refining their operations to achieve peak performance.



Running a successful lab requires more than just scientific expertise; it also requires strategic management. By separating the roles of scientific researchers and lab operations, bringing in additional resources, prioritizing safety, and utilizing data analytics, companies can significantly enhance the efficiency and output of their labs.

Often the best solution is bringing in outside help like Venture Forward Partners to manage the workflow in areas like monitoring equipment maintenance, gas intake, shipping, inventory control and data recording. Venture Forward Partners is dedicated to guiding companies through any challenge to make sure their laboratories are as innovative and efficient as the research they conduct. Our sole focus is on making the lab run as smoothly as possible. We have the experience and the knowledge to help with your day-to-day operations, leaving your science team to focus on the science. Whatever your lab needs Venture Forward Partners makes it happen.

For a detailed analysis and personalized consultation on how Venture Forward Partners can assist in optimizing your laboratory operations, please contact us.

Contact Information: vfp@vfplabs.com

About Venture Forward Partners:

Venture Forward Partners is a full-service Laboratory Planning, Project Management and Lab Services company for life science and biotech laboratories in Greater Boston. From site selection and lab relocations to setting up and maintaining your lab, we provide a broad range of services and solutions to support your lab operations.  Our team possesses unparalleled energy and enthusiasm toward the work we do and we have the expertise, training, hands-on lab experience and industry connections to ensure your lab’s success.  Whatever your lab needs – we make it happen.

*Note: The statistics and findings presented in this white paper are from a proprietary piece of research with data collected Q4 2023.