Q&A: 5 Questions with Andrew Anderson—Part One
Gearing up for SMASH 2016: Reassessing the Value of Computer Assisted Structure Elucidation

Q&A: 5 Questions with Andrew Anderson – Part Two

By Sanji Bhal, Director of Marketing & Communications (ACD/Labs)

If you’ve had the pleasure to meet Andrew, you would know that he’s quite passionate about his work at ACD/Labs. When I sat down with him earlier this month, he had a lot to say about innovation within both the industry and our company. In part one of our two part series, Andrew shared how his previous role at PepsiCo has influenced his work at ACD/labs. He also discussed what’s different about the company since his return late last year. If you didn’t get a chance to read part one, I recommend you check it out when you get a chance.

Now, for part two—in the second part of our conversation, Andrew shared his thoughts on ACD/Labs’ greatest contributions as well as where he predicts—or hopes—the company and industry will be in the next five years. Enjoy!

What do you feel is the most valuable impact you and the company have had on the industry? What do you plan on achieving in order to grow this impact further?

Well, it depends on what we define as the “industry.” If we look at the space in which ACD/Labs’ customers live and breathe, our greatest impact is increasing productivity by way of our software. So, with that in mind, we focus on building new technologies that provide companies with live data so that they can make better decisions. If you look at the projects companies are working on, they first compartmentalize, process, analyze, record and then finally arrive at the decision making part, so decisions are dependent on static reports a lot of times. However, by investing in ACD/Labs, there is a convergence at the software level – data acquisition sits at one end and the decision process book ends the other. Essentially, we bring unit operations together by providing software that offers a visually dynamic interaction with data and therefore making the decision process easier.

Our core technology development in the next few years is focused on interoperability and how scientists can easily interact, visualize, and embed data in their application of choice. I believe this reduces the burden many IT organizations face – the management of many disparate systems. ACD/Labs enables these organizations to have a discrete set of integrated solutions. In doing so, we ultimately provide a richer experience for users.

We invest heavily in technology platforms and we’d like to expand our impact by making software available wherever it is convenient for scientists. For instance, customers buy our computer assisted structure elucidation package and they install it on Windows and in runs on a machine. However, this is not on-demand or accessible wherever the scientist is working from. We want to make software de-constructible and available instead of being stuck on a certain machine. 

Where do you see the industry headed in the next five years?

If I had to pick one word to describe where I see the software industry headed, I’d said collaborative innovation. We have core competencies at each company and they focus on building strong, sellable products and these companies are usually good at doing one specific thing. If we look back ten years, these were discrete products. Fast forward and the software industry has significantly improved bandwidth as well as what we can do on the web. I can see a continual evolution of how customers buy software, for instance, starting to buy core competencies that can be integrated into one single interface. Competition across the industry will evolve from providing fully-formed, discrete products to investments in algorithms and the associated technology that distributes these algorithms in a highly-efficient fashion.

I also can see the fracturing of R&D in the next five years or so. 20 years ago, there were only core facilities. For example, Pfizer’s facility was end to end, from research to commercialization. Based on where the world is headed, you’ll see an increasing demand for infrastructure that allows for more externalized research. I see this as an opportunity for scientists because they can be freelancers and bring their expertise to different companies that are in need of their knowledge. Can you imagine the equivalent to working from home but for scientists? Technology parks would allow for scientists to come in and work in a “studio” where corporate entities sponsor the space and decide who they want to work with. Then, customers would buy micro-services from that scientist for a particular scientific challenge. However this would require the right IT infrastructure and instruments to wire these parks and connect scientists with companies.

How about ACD/Labs? What advancements do you wish to see in five years?

I hope that the company expands its reach in terms of customers and decision makers. I hope ACD/Labs’ technology evolves to be more integrated with different workflows and I hope we continue to strive for better ways to characterize materials in terms of structure as well as qualitative and quantitative attributes. Also, in five years I’d like to see our long term investments in algorithms come through in terms of uncovering more benefits from our research on data processing and analysis.

Tune in for a special edition…

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Andrew and I hope you found it interesting as well! Wouldn’t technology parks staffed by “scientist mercenaries” be a cool concept? As part of our discussion, I also asked Andrew to share his advice for young professionals starting their careers in the informatics space. Since he had so much good knowledge to share (per usual), I decided to wrap up all his career tips on how to be successful in one special edition post. Check in next month – you don’t want to miss out on the knowledge Andrew has acquired through his years of experience working in pharma, software and food & beverage.

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