Driving innovation through data management

Researchers from industry and academia gathered in Milan, Italy on the 27- 28 November 2019 to discuss challenges and opportunities in data management in the life sciences at the latest ELIXIR Innovation and SME Forum. Over 70 participants attended the event, which boasted 33 talks, including four keynote presentations and eight flash talks from Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs). 

Group photo of all attendees at the event

ELIXIR’s Innovation and SME Forums provide a unique platform to bring together scientists at universities or academic institutes and companies to share their experiences around a specific topic. This event put a spotlight on how data management technologies and techniques can help drive innovation. 

A key focus of the event was to offer local SMEs the chance to share their company’s visions and technologies with the other participants through a two minute flash talk during  the networking evening. The topics were hugely diverse, ranging from food traceability using omics data to uses of patent data in drug discovery. 

Schedule of SME flash talks presented at the event

Vibhor Gupta from SME Pangaea, commented on how attending was valuable for them; “As a SME, the ELIXIR Innovation and SME Forum was an amazing opportunity to explore collaborations in the context of applying and refining our machine learning algorithms for specific scientific and clinical use cases, accessing data and also to benefit from the hardware infrastructure which is available through the ELIXIR Nodes. Additionally, it is a great platform to exchange notes with the scientific community which helps us validate our methodologies and product roadmap [...] learning about new use cases where our work could help improve patient outcomes, or research and development of new therapeutics in conjunction with other technologies which are part of the ecosystem.” 

A key theme at the event was the importance of  Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) data showing that there is a drive to make data FAIR across sectors to enable more effective research. Keynote speaker, Philippe Rocca-Serra from the University of Oxford, representing the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) project FAIRplus, stressed the importance of FAIR data standards in data management. Rolf Grigat from Bayer picked up on the theme sharing his company’s experience of making their data FAIR, which poses challenges even if the data is intended for those within the company.  

Dominic Clark from the Pistoia Alliance also commented on the value of hearing about FAIR principles at the event. “The ELIXIR Innovation and SME Forum was a great opportunity for knowledge exchange between ELIXIR, the many representatives from academic and industrial organisations who make use of ELIXIR resources as part of their research or business and the Pistoia Alliance. It was particularly pleasing to hear a number of presentations that made reference to the IMI FAIRplus project and the Pistoia Alliance FAIR Implementation project. I look forward to future events.”.

The other keynote talks also drew on similar themes of collaborative working and open data. Massimo Delledonne, University of Verona, made a case specific to genomics, highlighting challenges in data usability from current technologies. Cristina Messa, University of Milan-Bicocca, steered the focus to how Research Infrastructures in Europe can help. Finally, Iain Mattaj, Director of the Human Technopole in Milan - a new research institute for life sciences - discussed how they plan to integrate with industry to ensure that data flows seamlessly to encourage innovation. 

Further information 

All Keynote talks were recorded and you can find them through our ELIXIR YouTube channel playlist for the event. Slides from all presentations at the event are available, as are the photographs

If you are interested in attending ELIXIR’s future Innovation and SME events you can find details of upcoming forums on our industry pages. Please contact Industry Officer Katharina Lauer (katharina.lauer [at] elixir-europe.org) for further information on hosting or attending the forums.

Thu 12 December 2019