As anyone who works within the LIMS industry well knows the development of the digital lab has been a long time coming and has yet more ground to cover. But we're well established enough now, and the market has had a long time to set itself up, so now we can start to draw a clear picture of how the LIMS market is reflected in the world, where the big business is and where it can continue to grow and support laboratories in the world.
For starters I'll drop a little note; near enough every laboratory on the planet has some form of digitisation, software or some such equipment. What I'm looking at here is the dedicated LIMS systems and professionals and where they are located around the globe.
By far the biggest market for LIMS is in the US. According to the LIMS Wiki (Which is a fantastic website by the way) there are 329 recorded LIMS vendors. Now of course there will be some providers on here who are no longer functioning or offering the service, and plenty of companies who haven't made the list, but this is as close to a definitive list of companies sourced on the internet. According to this 143 of those companies are US based, which is an astonishing 43% of companies worldwide. Furthermore, from research gleaned from LinkedIn, from the total number of worldwide LIMS professionals 63% are in the US. Whilst both these numbers are subject to error they still offer an accurate representation of the market. Not only is North America the largest market it also has the biggest companies, hence the larger than proportion workforce. This doesn't mean it's a saturated market by any means and there is still room for growth, specialisation and further developments in the technology but it's certainly the largest worldwide.
UK & Ireland
Whilst not the largest market by any means the UK with its flourishing life sciences sector punches well above its weight in terms of its market share. From LIMS Wiki, 17 of the 329 companies are based in the UK, which is around 5% of the world's market share for companies. I know with certainty there are many more companies that aren't listed, or whom offer broader lab digital services, so my best estimate is that this a very conservative number and the figure is closer to 10%. This is in line with the number of LIMS professionals in the UK, which is at 10%, and considering the UK companies are by and large SME's and not the super large corporations, I suspect there are a greater number of companies not represented on the list. There is clearly a lot of room for growth here and the UK is one of the most burgeoning markets in terms of R&D, so it wouldn't surprise me to see some of the next biggest innovators in the LIMS market comes from my home isles.
The last place on my list is Central Europe (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland). Making up around 23% of the workforce, Central Europe is the second biggest market and is still very much emerging. With innovative companies such as EuSoft in Italy and with a strong market in Germany, Central Europe is a growing force in LIMS and when the area begins to really start penetrating the US and Gulf states markets we'll see a real explosion in growth in the region.
Markets for the Future
Already quickly mentioned but the Gulf states offer a really high potential for growth in the LIMS markets as well as the BRICS, Japan and South Korea. The lack of a sizable Asian presence in the market is quite a surprise for a part of the world that often leads the way when it comes to technology, science and innovation, but it's lagging behind in the world of LIMS. But with more investment than ever in China and Japan and South Korea striving to compete, the Asian market could be a sleeping giant.
Ultimately, as with any emerging technology what tends to be seen is the early adoption, often language led, by individual companies and countries around the globe. One of those markets eventually becomes dominant and sets the baseline for the look, feel and scope of every other markets product, just like Apple & Samsung have done with smartphones. Eventually though the larger companies start to swallow up the clever innovators and though the innovation isn’t stifled, standardisation becomes the new reality and the true innovators are forced to come up with something completely new, which shapes a whole new market and the cycle continues. With the LIMS market the US had a big head start hence its early dominance in the tech age, but we’re starting to approach a point where other international companies are becoming more and more confident in the strength and USP’s of their product, so the point of standardisation and international monopolisation is still a way away. For now, whilst LIMS has existed for quite some time now, the digital revolution reset the clock on the market timeline and there is still plenty of growth and fluidity in the market that incorporates small and large companies alike and where the market is judged on the quality and specialisation of the product and service first and the size and reputation of the company providing it second.