• How to Purchase Equipment for a New Lab

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How to Purchase Equipment for a New Lab

Aug 27 2022

From stereo microscopes to spectrometers, equipment is one of the biggest expenses faced by new laboratories. With advanced instruments often costing tens of thousands of pounds, costs can quickly add up. This is why it’s so important to adopt a strategic approach when purchasing equipment for a new lab.

Read on to find out more about the journey and how to keep costs as low as possible, without compromising on efficiency or functionality.

  • Visit similar laboratories to observe equipment

Visiting other laboratories carrying out similar research can be a great way to create a strategic equipment purchasing plan. Chat to staff about what they like and dislike about different instruments and ask what changes they would make. This should help give you a better idea of what’s worth investing in and what to avoid.

  • Source quotes from multiple suppliers

Shopping around for different quotes is one of the best ways to reduce your spend when shopping for new equipment.

  • Consider sharing equipment with other labs where possible

Sharing equipment with other labs can be a great way to reduce your overall spend. This approach is especially useful if the item in question is essential but won’t be used regularly.  

  • Build relationships with critical vendors

Good relationships with your vendors can unlock discounts on everything from basic glassware to next-generation UHPLC systems for dried blood spot sampling and analysis.

  • Negotiate on prices

It never hurts to ask for a discount, especially when some expensive items of equipment easily cost more than the average staff salary.

  • Take advantage of startup packages

Many scientific instrument manufacturers and vendors offer generous startup packages designed to help kickstart new labs. Research grants can also be a great way to boost your lab equipment budget.

  • Factor in user fees, service contracts and other ‘hidden’ expenses

These types of ‘hidden’ costs can quickly add up. It’s important to have a complete picture of all the expenses associated with purchasing new equipment before you commit.

Prioritise people over equipment

In the ‘Starting a Laboratory’ guide published by the Stanford School of Medicine, author Jody Puglisi says “one of the joys and pitfalls of faculty-hood is lab setup - you get to go on a shopping spree.” While shopping for new lab equipment is exciting, Puglisi stresses it’s important not to overspend. Instead, he maintains it’s “better to have a lab full of people and sparse in equipment.”

Staffing is the most important element of starting a lab and should be prioritised over equipment. Of course, it’s important for new labs to be well equipped with everything they need to carry out cutting-edge research. For example, environmental research labs analysing soil samples will most likely need Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy instruments. However, purchases shouldn’t be made at the expense of personnel. At the end of the day, it’s people that drive research and innovation. If a lab can’t afford to hire the right staff, it can’t afford to purchase the latest equipment.

From university startup packages to government grants, funding is one of the best ways to kit out a research lab. Find out more in ‘How to Start a Research Lab - All Bases Covered' and 'Why UK participation in Horizon Europe matters to you'


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