Issue Date: March 16, 2015
Pittcon: Opportunity & Surprise
I’ve just returned from attending Pittcon in New Orleans. Pittcon, also known as the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy, is the world’s largest annual conference and exposition on laboratory science. Its 2015 edition attracted more than 16,000 attendees from industry, academia, and government from over 90 countries worldwide. More than 900 exhibitors participated in the four-day event: From Waters Corp., Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Agilent to Shimadzu, Bruker, and Metrohm, big and small equipment manufacturers were represented, with PerkinElmer returning after a few years’ absence.
Pittcon’s target audience is not just analytical chemists but all laboratory scientists. At Pittcon, they have the opportunity to find solutions to the challenges they meet in the lab by participating in live demos; by attending technical presentations (there were more than 2,000), product seminars, and short courses; and by talking with technical experts and other analytical scientists who share similar challenges.
In terms of product launches, there were a few but not as many as I’d expected. Talking to a number of company representatives made clear that launching a product at an event such as Pittcon or Analytica is something companies do less and less often. The preference nowadays is for a product to be launched when it is ready, timed so that companies can retain their competitive advantage. And instrument makers have developed mechanisms and routes to market their new products to the target audience.
The trend toward miniaturization continues. Across the spectrum of companies at the show there is a focus on producing more compact and portable systems. Another trend is toward instrumentation with a simpler user interface and improved ability to translate data into useful information. The benefit here is in enabling the bench scientist to not only run the equipment but also gather the first results.
One of the highlights of the meeting for me happened on the first day, when I had the opportunity to meet with the young chemists from the ACS/Pittcon Travel Awards program. This is a group of 14 early career chemists who, with generous support from the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon, and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, are invited to attend Pittcon, at no cost to them. ACS's Office of International Activities coordinated the logistics for the 2015 delegation, which consisted of five representatives from Colombia; two each from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Jamaica; and one each from Panama, Venezuela, and Trinidad & Tobago. In terms of a gender split, it was refreshing to see a healthy distribution with six women and eight men. Pittcon provides a great opportunity for these young scientists to engage with different companies and network with experienced analytical scientists to gain a global perspective and insight into a very dynamic, constantly evolving industry.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the program, which was founded by Rich Danchik. He was honored at the meeting for his vision and contributions to its success.
Another topic that came up in conversation a number of times was cannabis. A couple of representatives of exhibiting companies mentioned that they had had an increasing number of inquiries from clients in relation to cannabis testing, and this was influencing some of their most recent work. From their point of view, cannabis is an agricultural product and should be subject to appropriate regulation, but beyond the political controversy, there is added complexity in that it can be available both as a commercial and as a medicinal product. This is clearly an industry in its infancy and one where instrument makers see growth: Adequate quality-control and standardization processes will need to be established as these products enter the marketplace.
Finally, I’d like to mention something that I had not seen before but thought was entertaining: One exhibiting company brought three crowd-pleasing choppers—beautifully modified motorcycles—to the exhibition floor. Whatever next?
Our Pittcon coverage begins with news on page 4 and continues with business and scientific articles in the March 30 issue.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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