London’s L.A.B. Trade Fair

The history of London, England’s laboratory product exhibitions is long and varied. There used to be a very successful lab exhibition and scientific conference in London called The British Laboratory Week, or Lab Week for short (fancy that, a whole week). Some 20 years ago, a competing event was launched and the British lab scene has never been the same. Lab Week was discontinued and other exhibitions came and went. Instrument companies even got together and organized an exhibition and conference that lasted a few years. In recent years, International Biotech and Lab Automation has been the city’s annual laboratory product exhibition and conference. However, following the 2005 show, its organizers postponed further events. When one exhibition was discontinued (for lack of success, one would assume), there always seems to be a new organizer waiting in the wings. After all, Great Britain is the second biggest European market for laboratory instrumentation after Germany. The first L.A.B. conference and exhibition took place on October 2–4 at the ExCel exhibition center in the London Docklands. The sponsors were Gambica, the UK Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology, and Spectaris, the German Industry Association for Optical, Medical and Mechatronical Technologies. The organizer was Leipziger Messe GmbH, which has organized trade fairs dating back to the year 1015. According to L.A.B. organizers, there were 88 exhibitors, 1,300 visitors and 120 conference delegates. The catalog lists 81 exhibitors, including 32 suppliers of general lab equipment, 27 suppliers of analytical instruments and 12 lab magazines and trade associations, among others. Beckman Coulter and Eppendorf AG each had relatively big booths, as did Thermo Fisher Scientific, which displayed no products. As this was predominantly a lab equipment and labware show, other big names, such as Agilent, Applied Biosystems, PerkinElmer, Sartorius AG and Tecan were absent. The exception was FEI, which showed its Phenom scanning electron microscope (SEM). The Phenom is designed to make high-end imaging more practical and affordable for many industrial and research applications. It enables a researcher, as opposed to an SEM specialist, to operate it. Büchi Labortechnik AG showed the Multivapor, a 12-place parallel evaporator, a simpler and more cost-effective addition to its evaporator product line. If anyone can organize a good trade fair, it is certainly Leipziger Messe, but is that enough to create an institution on the British lab scene? Doubtful. Suppliers will probably continue to ask themselves if participating is worth the investment. In most cases, to be successful, an exhibition has to have a very specific theme and be aimed at a specific group of researchers. For example, the Royal Microscopical Society’s MICROSCIENCE microscopy, imaging and analysis exhibition and conference held every two years has been very successful. In addition, a venue that is easy to access is helpful. If you travel to London by train, it takes another hour to get out to the Docklands. Considering all this, it is possible that L.A.B. may go the same way as previous attempts. The next L.A.B. is planned for 2009.

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