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How digital R&D enables scientists to do science

Research and development is about always searching for new innovations, keeping up with trends and new demands from customers and consumers. At Chr. Hansen, we have a dedicated digital R&D team working to digitalize in order to empower the scientists and enable more scalable science. Get to know department manager, Camilla Petersen, and her three team members in Digital R&D and learn how their work with digitalization paves the way for future innovations.

Digital R&D
Camilla Petersen, Morten Meldgaard, Lasse Ludvigsen and Marie-Catherine Le Bihan. 


Foundation for future science

Over the past years, the Digital R&D team has worked on building a foundation for data collection and data sharing across different research departments in Chr. Hansen. This is something many companies find themselves doing, since new innovation relies on the ability to not only generate data, but also to collect and learn from it. The Digital R&D team consists of senior department manager, Camilla Petersen, and Morten Meldgaard, Lasse Ludvigsen and Marie-Catherine Le Bihan. Morten has been on the project since its very beginning: 

“I am happy that we have become an established organizational unit in R&D and that the foundation we have built is being consolidated and further developed. I feel privileged to be a digital R&D specialist with a science background and as such explore new digital frontiers and turn front edge technology into practical use in R&D.” 

Working smarter

The Digital R&D team works closely with the laboratories in Chr. Hansen to find the best solutions for digitalization. The labs generate a lot of data, so the lab technicians and scientists need a simple and automated data collection method that will enable them to use their time more efficiently – actually doing science and not sorting through data. Over the years, this has become a reality in Chr. Hansen, and we continue to improve. Lasse explains his role in this process: 

“My overall responsibility is to create a foundation for my colleagues in form of a solid IT infrastructure. I make sure bits and bytes can flow across safely and quickly. Before we can begin to discuss AI, digital twins etc., it requires a solid digital foundation and understanding.”


Digital trends and challenges

AI, machine learning, digital twins and automation are some of the dominating market trends within digital R&D that the team is working on optimizing and incorporating in Chr. Hansen. Common for these trends is the great impact they will have on the science labs. Marie-Catherine elaborates on these effects:

“By interacting with domain experts in R&D, data science is allowing us to unravel the full potential of data: reducing redundancy in experiments, optimizing work processes, easing data consumption, communicating efficiently by mastering data storytelling and performing in silico experiments through predictive models and AI.

To support unleashing the full potential of data, more and more robots find their way into Chr. Hansen’s laboratories and experiments are scaled down to microliters (one millions of a liter), which generates lots of data. Morten explains:

“This enables us to do thousands of experiments at the same time, so we are unprecedentedly efficient in creating data. For such a digitalized R&D to work, we need a highway for the huge amounts of data to travel from the equipment to the storage and to our advanced  analytics setup processing the data.”

The Digital R&D team provides this highway in form of a LabNet – a centralized storage of data available to all data scientists from the lab or remote enabling them to set up experiments and extract insights from data independent of time and place, ultimately freeing up time to do what they do best. 

Another project that the team is currently working on is Scibite, a project about semantic text search that aims to structure otherwise unstructured data to make it readable and fit for machine learning. Through algorithms and access to data, the program is able to generate more accurate results by understanding the searcher’s intent, query context and the relationships between words. 

Diversity bridging IT and R&D

The team members have different backgrounds, and this gives each of them a unique view point and understanding of the work they do in Digital R&D. Camilla stresses that what makes her team so great is the ability to use each other’s expert knowledge and competences to better understand and create the right solutions:

“We have different expertise areas covering a wide range of strengths. We are not all focusing on staying on top of everything, which is why we use each other a lot for sparring, and we partner up with other teams to continuously learn more and create the solutions needed.”

The team diversity really helps bridge IT and R&D. With Lasse’s understanding of technology and processes within IT, Marie-Catherine’s extensive knowledge as a data scientist and Morten drawing on his background within natural science, microbiology and a PhD in genetics and protein chemistry, the team has an impressive competence catalog, which enables them to have a 360 degree understanding of the digital research and development solutions needed to innovate for a sustainable future. 

The future of Digital R&D

When looking to the future, Camilla has no doubt that her team will be expanding. She looks forward to welcoming new, unique talents who can bring their own competencies and knowledge to the team and become part of the continuous process of optimizing data and enabling increasingly scalable science:

“The future within Digital R&D will continue to be full of changes and interesting challenges, and it is all about investing in the ability to change, so we are ready to act on the opportunities tomorrow brings.”

The team will continue to work with automation processes, machine learning, AI and digital twins, and optimization of these, as the Chr. Hansen scientists move along with new innovative processes. The foundation that the team works on will be the ground stone for the continuous digitalization that Chr. Hansen will meet in the future.

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