Combining our three core specialisms with cross sector experience from a world-class team, we transform businesses through the built environment and enhance the way people work.

View all projects

Optimising R&D laboratory design

Optimal R&D laboratory design has a huge part to play in the advances of the life sciences sector.

5 min read

Research and development (R&D) provides the powerful knowledge and insight necessary for scientific advancement, with innovation at its core. Its purpose is essential for the continuous improvement and revolutionization of our global health. 

To facilitate life sciences research and development (R&D,) it is important to prioritize high quality laboratory layouts that promote employee-centric principles and seamless workflows. Flexible and adaptable recourses are also necessary to accommodate any future changes in research requirements. 

For an optimal R&D laboratory, design must go beyond standard considerations such as structural specifications, safety regulations and specific compliance requirements, instead providing a mission-centric, collaborative laboratory environment that embeds open innovation to encourage further discovery in the life sciences arena. 

Top considerations for R&D lab design:

  • Collaboration zones – place emphasis on collaborative configurations that help scientists share information, resources and education
  • Flexibility – with science discovery continually changing, through agile design features and multi-functional furniture pieces ensure your laboratory design can be easily changed for the future
  • Environmental factors – pay attention to factors such as lighting, finishes and finishes selections and acoustics to create laboratory workspaces that scientists can focus in

      Two scientists looking at a computer in a r&d style laboratory

      The pillars of R&D lab design: quality and reconfiguration


      An optimized R&D lab will facilitate quality work through seamless design features that encourage collaboration amongst Researchers through a cooperative and employee-friendly environment. 

      Employee wellbeing values should be reflected through design, to improve the technician and researcher experience. Take this Biopharmaceutical lab design for example, whereby a communal breakout area and open plan seating were essential in producing a structural framework designed for recuperation, collaboration and teamwork. 

      It’s also as important to design for efficient workflows to further improve research quality. Eliminating any wasted processes and ineffective steps that are unseemly accounted for by layout. Unproductive laboratory layouts can magnify additional actions and unnecessary interruptions within a work process. Inadequate storage and unnecessary equipment can have further detrimental effects on quality. 

      Minimising these ‘wasteful practices’ improves the effectiveness of a lab space and results in a human-friendly workflow, allowing for consistent production, further success, and quality results. 


      The R&D industry is one that is continuously evolving, the nature of R&D work is centralised around the need to be able to change research processes on a frequent basis. Laboratory design must incorporate reusable recourses to accommodate continuous change, allowing for a smoother transition into new research and projects.

      Sufficient design prioritises flexible lab spaces to maximise available resources, which in turn allows a life sciences company to remain competitive and at the forefront of cutting edge scientific advances.

      Creating a high-quality environment with adaptable design features and collaborative spaces will ensure ongoing eminent research. Devising spaces that can embrace change in line with research needs and applications not only ensures quality and maximises resource but also embeds an open R&D philosophy.

      Consider free-standing, durable lab furniture that allows you to restructure and reorganize your space at any time. Similarly you may want to consider fitting out laboratories with furniture that meets the evolving needs of technical requirements, but which can also be repurposed or recycled at the end of its lifecycle

      Why ‘open R&D’ is the future

      Adopted in the early 2000’s, the ‘open innovation’ approach was developed to tackle the traditional preference of independent scientific discovery. Organisations have adopted a new approach to driving innovation: a collaborative approach with like-minded companies. The physical R&D lab space now mirrors this idea, with design prioritising openness within a space. 

      For R&D lab design to embed the open approach, we’ve recognised three factors that should be considered:

      1. The design of an R&D lab needs to be built to accommodate all specifications

      It is imperative that labs are built to incorporate all necessary requirements, from structural amendments including floor-to-floor height considerations, floor load capacity and vibration control, to safety compliance considerations such as fire suppression systems and fire exits.

      Design must incorporate necessary HVAC systems and MEP considerations, with suitable electrical services and water supply, sufficient visibility and room to work.

      Once these essential requirements are embedded within the first stages of design, the opportunity to build bespoke design can follow. 

      2. A designed lab space must acknowledge bespoke requirements

      R&D labs do not harbour a one-size-fits-all design. Whether it’s a stand-alone laboratory, a singular lab in a larger facility, or a series of multifunctional labs, each space will require a tailored design that’s reflective of their individual needs and priorities. 

      Research requirements must be fully comprehended when building a customizable, built-to-suit lab space. Once all compliant aspects are solidified prior to this stage of designing, emphasis can then be focused on embracing each R&D labs unique demands.

      Recognise that bespoke requirements may change overtime, particularly in the rapidly changing world of R&D. Incorporate dynamic design configurations and furniture that is adaptable to bring opportunities for expanded space, technology and ultimately faster time to market.

      3. Building spaces to foster research-focused community

      Bespoke spaces provide the opportunity for businesses to embrace their company values and ethos in their laboratory spaces. These aspects of designing a lab should not be overlooked as they’re the pinpoint of improving collaborative work.

      Collaboration extends to the wider R&D community when life sciences businesses identify other like-minded partners. Advertising open cultures through collaborative design features embraces success as a whole, welcoming partnerships and extended teamwork. 

      Scientists collaborating in an optimally designed R&D laboratory
      Prioritise collaborative spaces in R&D lab design

      Optimising R&D labs through design

      The important motivators that have propelled the R&D life sciences sectors, past and present, should play an important role in the design process of any new or refitted R&D lab. 

      Productivity, innovation, collaboration, quality research, flexible resources and human-friendly workflows have been embedded into the functionality of R&D labs for decades. With proven successful effects on the technology, tools and products flowing through each lab. AIS can assist with designing a space that facilitates R&D. 

      Get in touch to find out how we can help you with your lab design.