HTFS-III showed how high throughput technology is helping to provide companies with faster, cheaper and high quality formulations, as well as providing insight into the right way to implement and improve HTFS.

You have now missed the meeting, but you can read all the abstracts and see all the slides from the links on the programme page.

The Formulation Science and Technology group (FSTG) of the Royal Society of Chemistry was pleased to present the third HTFS conference which was hosted by the National Formulation Centre at Sedgefield.

This was held on Wednesday 26th April 2017 at the National Formulation Centre, CPI, Sedgefield.

High Throughput Formulation Screening III - From discovery to manufacture

When HTFS-I and HTFS-II were held, in 2006 and 2008, the use of high throughput technologies in formulation was still in its infancy and terms such as big data had not yet been coined.  In 2017 high throughput techniques had become a key part of a formulators toolbox, combined with both the classical statistical tools, such as design of experiments, but also with newer data mining techniques from the world of big data.  During HTFS-III practioneers with decades of high throughput experience among them shared key learning from the routine use of high throughput techniques to accelerate and de-risk formulation at all stages from discovery to manufacture.  HTFS-III also gave an insight into the expected future developments that were changing formulation from a largely empirical science to a hybrid of science and engineering which will see new formulations based on designs predicted through simulations, high throughput measurements and big data mining of existing product performance data.

The meeting was held at the National Formulation Centre to allow the HTFS-III delegates to be some of the first to see the £3 million investment that had been made in an open access high throughput laboratory at Sedgefield, which is a key component of the national formulation strategy.


Simon Gibbon (Chair of Formulation Science and Technology Group) set the context for the meeting with the UK's productivity gap being a challenge to the country's futue prosperity, how HTFS would be a key component of the needed increase in productivity.  This set high expectations for the successes of high throughput technologies which would be exposed during the meeting.

The meeting kicked off with John Carroll, CPI's Technical Strategy Director (Formulation), who explained how CPI's National Formulation Centre (NFC) as part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult was accelerating the transformation of formulation from an art to a science.  NFC is pursuing 3 capability themes of predictive design, radical innovation and manufacturability underpinned by the principles of the "4th Industrial Revolution" 4IR.  NFC works primarly by pulling together multi-party collaborations to tackle a wide range of formulation challenges across a diverse set of industries.  NFC operates a hub and spoke model with existing / new facilities available across the country, but with specific investments at the NFC to fill gaps in the UK's formulation capability.  One significant investment is the NFC's open access high throughput formulation laboratory (toured over lunch by the delegates), which allows any company to assess HTE without making speculative large capital investments.

Mark Bark, Unilever explained how Unilever's ambition to double the size of its business whilst reducing environmental footprint and increasing positive social impacts, required reformulation of all its home and personal care products, driving the comprehensive integraton of high throughput formulation technologies.  End to end automation and high throughput has been adopted as the philosophy across formulation, with significant assets being installed both within Unilever and in the Materials Innovation Factory at the University of Liverpool, all underpinned by comprehensive data science to capture and process not just results but also all relevant meta-data.

AkzoNobel's Chris Lampard showed how high throughput technology had driven the company's capability to tackle global formulation, creating single formulation platforms off which local customisation could be carried out.  High throughput formulation tools combined with data science has allowed complete formulation spaces to be characterised requiring experimental campaigns which could not have been carried out manually.  HTE has transformed formulation at AkzoNobel providing previously unavailable speed and consistency of formulation, but it has also driven a culture change where the big questions are now being asked.

Ian Tovey, Syngenta, explained how HTE for agrochemicals products was introduced at the same time as formulations were becoming ever more complex in order to achieve increased efficacy combined with increased safety.  HTE has required tackling these challenges, the result has been the production of larger/complete data sets used for cost / process optimisation combined with improved product performance.  While more data has been produced there has been a reduction in tedious and repetive laboratory work.  New measurements have been developed to allow formulations to be optimised over multiple dimensions.

Peter Fryer, University of Birmingham, examined the key factors that need to be considered to ensure that a formulation can be manufactured.  While manufacturability is often wrapped up in the single word scaleup, this needs to be unpacked into understanding how your equipment actually works, what it actually does to your formulation, then considering all the constraints which can be ignored in the laboratory from microbial safety to use of water / energy, while obviously keeping in mind the necessary performance and acceptable cost.

Jim Cawse, CawseAndEffect, gave the Elizabeth Colbourn Memorial Lecture, it was highly appropriate as Liz had been a key contributor to the previous HTFS meetings 10 years ago with her visionary approach to the coupling of big data to high throughput formulation.  Jim gave a master class in experimental statistics for formulation, explaining how this could be applied effectively to high throughput formulation and stressing how ensuring the quality of the data generated was key to successful HTE campaigns.  Effectively you need to consider data analysis even before the first experiment has been run, in order to ensure that the information you need with be statistically valid at the end of your campaign.

Ian Riley, Labman Automation, valiantly took on the title ("How to do HTE right") suggested to him by the organisers.  It turned out that having made 100's of different HTE systems from the automation of a single repetive dispensing process to the extraction / purification / analysis of DNA from natural products, Labman knows how not to do HTE and several key steps on the way to doing HTE right.  Full system specification is essential, as an automated system will do what it is designed to do, so make sure you are asking for what you really want.  Always start small with any new workflow and if new technology is required then prototype the new automation step.  Many processes which work reliably when carried out 1 at a time manually in the laboratory don't automate well.  So, it is only by automating the process and testing it repetively you discover the issues which would make your new HTE system very rapidly into a new STE (slow) system.

The meeting concluded with a convivial panel discussion where the speakers were put on the spot on a range of topics across errors, culture, training, formualtion pre / post HTE and asked to speculate on the future.

It turned out that Jim Cawse's PhD advisor was fairly wise back in the 20th centry when he said "I don't want lots of data, I want good data", however in the 21st century with HTE formulation companies have now learnt how to get "lots of good data".

Speakers (see programme page for titles and link to the presentations):

  • Dr John Carroll, National Formulation Centre, UK
  • Professor Peter Fryer, Birmingham University, UK
  • Dr James Cawse, Cawse and Effect, Massachusets, USA
  • Chris Lampard, AkzoNobel, UK
  • Dr Mark Baker, Unilever, UK
  • Ian Riley, Labman Automation, UK
  • Ian Tovey, Syngenta, UK

Organising committee

Dr Stephen Bysouth, Automaxion, France

Dr John Carroll, National Formulation Centre, CPI, UK

Dr Simon Gibbon, AkzoNobel RD&I, UK

Dr Helen Ryder, The University of Manchester, UK




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