“In the News”

October 16, 2018

“Cores on Tap”

‘Open Access Initiative’ and ideas how to advertise its unprecedented value to Chicago researchers discussed at the inaugural “Cores on Tap”

A new networking initiative, called playfully “Cores on Tap,” held its inaugural event in Chicago under the sponsorship of CG Life and Stratocore. The meeting gathered core facility members from the three CBC universities, UChicago, UIC and NU. CBC-sponsored and ground-breaking ‘Open Access Initiative’ was in the center of discussions. Dr. Phil Hockberger, now Associate VP for Research at Northwestern University, was the key mastermind behind the Open Access Initiative conception in 2014, which led to the three CBC University Provosts having signed a pioneering Memorandum of Understanding that allows researchers from the three schools to access a partner’s core facilities without paying additional F&A charges. Phil addressed the still pressing issue of ‘how [to] create broader and informed awareness’ and involve more researchers in locally-accessible services. CG Life and The Connell Group were on hand to offer advise on brand strategy and marketing.

CORElaborating at CG Life: Understanding The Core (Lab) Marketing Challenges

cglife   I   by Carolina Mora Solano, Murad Sabzali and Todd Kuna

Cores on Tap. Courtesy of cglife

Core labs play a critical role in scientific discovery and development. These centralized laboratories offer state-of-the-art facilities, programs and highly skilled scientific staff to advance research programs, primarily at academic institutions. In many ways, these labs function as contract research labs, offering capacity to support peer-reviewed research and help commercialization efforts. However, managing these labs is no small feat. Administrators not only determine what technologies to invest in, they need to ensure that researchers are properly trained in all facets of the techniques and their benefits. These day-to-day complexities of running a lab also present core lab marketing challenges and opportunities.

CG Life and Stratocore sponsored the inaugural “Cores on Tap” event at the CG Life office in Chicago. The event had an attendance of more than 70 employees from the core facilities from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University. These three institutions take part in the Chicago Biomedical Consortium’s Open Access Initiative, which promotes the shared use of core lab resources. This initiative expands individual university resources and allows for greater scientific collaboration.

Philip Hockberger, PhD
Associate Vice President for Research, NU

During the event at CG Life, participants took part in breakout sessions throughout the building and came up with solutions in a collaborative environment to questions such as: “how do we streamline billing across institutions?” and “now that the University of Chicago purchased the first Cryo-EM instrument, how can we help them run it smoothly?”

One of the biggest questions the core labs face is how do we create broader and informed awareness? According to Dr. Phil Hockberger Associate VP for Research at Northwestern University: “Only about 40% of individual research programs pay for and use core lab services.” This indicates that the lack of awareness is directly contributing to under-utilization of cutting-edge technology and resources, which can ultimately impact the pace of discovery. Essentially, core labs are facing a business—and marketing­—challenge.

Courtesy of cglife

To provide core lab administrators with the knowledge to increase the awareness of their offering, CG Life and The Connell Group co-presented a talk on brand strategy and marketing. The presentation provided core lab researchers with tips for improving the marketing of their specific services within their institutions as well as other universities or companies. The central theme of the presentation was the importance of understanding your audience and their specific needs and challenges. After establishing a solid knowledge base, labs can position themselves accordingly and market consistently.

“Having worked at the University of Chicago core lab, I can tell you from first-hand the importance to promote our facilities and capabilities,” said Todd Kuna, Senior Account Director at CG Life. “From our perspective, it wasn’t only to optimize our resources, our goal was to foster collaboration amongst a larger group of researchers. I’m thrilled that we were able to host this meeting and provide best practices on how to overcome these business and marketing challenges. At the end of the day, just because you built it, doesn’t necessarily mean they will come.”


Adapted (with modifications) from cglife by Carolina Mora Solano, Murad Sabzali and Todd Kuna.


▸ Open Access Initiative