Lab Automation: CROs and R&D Labs Aid Market

The laboratory automation market consists of five technology categories. Laboratory automation equipment increases laboratory efficiency, especially in areas where processes depend on repetition and precision.

Demand for lab automation has been soft, resulting in modest growth over the last two years. Nonetheless, the lab automation market grew 5.5% in 2008 to $3.1 billion. Lab automation sales are heavily weighted on the life science sector. Pharmaceutical and biotech industries, which account for a large portion of the market, have lowered their investments in large-scale automation technologies. As a result, other industries, such as contract research organizations and clinical research labs, are becoming more important.

The laboratory automation market is expected to grow 4.4% in 2009. Liquid handling, which includes manual and handheld pipettes and automated workstations, accounts for roughly 40% of the lab automation market. Manual pipettes, pipette tips and microplates are commodities and offer modest growth opportunities. Eppendorf and Mettler-Toledo lead the handheld pipette market. Automated workstations account for the largest segment of the liquid handling market. Tecan and Beckman Coulter have leadership positions in this segment. The liquid handling market is expected to grow 2.2% in 2009. The demand for smaller, application-specific workstations is expanding the market, enabling researchers with lower throughput and budget demands to obtain automation capabilities.

Microplate readers account for nearly 27% of the lab automation market and sales are forecasted to grow 6.4% this year. This market is being driven by multimode detection systems. In addition, applications involving fluorescence detection technologies, such as fluorescence polarization and time-resolved fluorescence, have fueled growth. Aftermarket products, including kits, reagents and other consumables, account for a significant part of this market and are also expected to drive growth. PerkinElmer, Thermo Fisher Scientific and MDS Analytical Technologies lead the market.

Robotics accounts for about 10% of the total lab automation market. North America and Europe account for the majority of the market, led by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. While the demand from these industries has weakened, industrial markets such as chemicals, agriculture and food have provided some stimulus. Nevertheless, most sectors have been more cautious in their investments for robotic automation. Overall, robotics is expected to grow 2.7% this year, led by Tecan and Symyx Technologies.

Dissolution testing accounts for about 4% of lab automation demand, with sales expected to increase 9.5% this year, fueled by increasing demand from the pharmaceutical industry in developing regions like India and China. Leading vendors of dissolution testing systems include Varian and Sotax.

As a result of efficient and sometimes complex workflows, data management software has become vital to laboratories. The evolution of management informatics software has dramatically improved during the last few years. With new web-based or web-enabled technologies, laboratory information management systems (LIMS) have become user friendly and easier to implement and deploy. Management informatics accounted for 18.5% of the lab automation market last year. Growth is expected to be somewhat modest this year due to the softness in the pharmaceutical industry, but strong growth is expected in the chemical and food industries. Electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) are becoming a more important part of the market and are expected to drive growth in the management informatics market. Overall, the market is expected to grow 6.1% in 2009, led by Thermo Fisher Scientific and LabWare.

Lab Automation Market Leaders

Microplate Readers PerkinElmer, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Liquid Handling

Automatic Tecan, Beckman Coulter

Manual Eppendorf, Mettler-Toledo

Robotics Tecan, Symyx Technologies

LIMS, ELN, SDMS Thermo Fisher Scientific, LabWare

Dissolution Testing Varian, Sotax

Lab Automation 2008–09

Market Share Growth Rate

Liquid Handling 39.9% 2.2%

Microplate Readers 27.3% 6.4%

LIMS, ELN, SDMS 18.5% 6.1%

Robotics 10.1% 2.7%

Dissolution Testing 4.2% 9.5%

Total 100.0% 4.4%

Chart: 2007–10 Total Lab Automation Market

2007 2008 2009 2010

Millions $2916 $3066 $3201 $3374

Chart: 2008 Lab Automation Supplier Market Shares

Tecan 11%

PerkinElmer 10%

Thermo 9%

Eppendorf 5%

MDS 4%

Others 61%

Chart: 2008 Lab Automation Market by Product Type


Initial Systems 1862

Aftermarket 794

Service 410

< | >