Biotechnology is an enabling technology that alone, or in combination with cognate technologies, provides the capacity to spur huge leaps in the performance and capabilities of numerous sectors, such as healthcare and medicine, agricultural production, and industrial production. In this context, a prerequisite for modern R&D is a high quality of the research data. By enabling re-use of research assets, research is made considerably more efficient and economical.
This can only be achieved reliably and efficiently if these data are generated according to standards and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Standardisation and quality management are thus important drivers in the life sciences and biotechnology, as only data generated with minimum quality assurance can be easily implemented into industrial applications. Furthermore, standards assure and ensure that data become easily accessible, shareable and comparable along the value chain. The use of common standards may hence result in improved efficiency and competitiveness of European life-science research. Moreover, standardisation strategies are required or have gained in importance in the assessment of proposals in the new H2020 framework programme. It was logical then that measures were taken by several initiatives and institutions to develop and implement standards in the life sciences: one of these was set up by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), which is seeking comprehensive agreement on standards in the life sciences, particularly in biotechnology and related fields. Under the auspices of the German Institute for Standardisation (DIN), an international committee (ISO/TC 276 Biotechnology) has been created that will endorse necessary standards and – if necessary – encourage the development of new norms and standards in a top-down approach. Unfortunately, current and new efforts remain fragmented and largely disconnected from each other.
The COST Action CHARME aims to bridge and combine the fragmented areas to achieve a breakthrough in standardisation efforts. CHARME will identify needs and gaps, teaming up with other initiatives and organisations to avoid duplication and overlap of standardisation activities. Only through a common, coordinated, long-term strategy, by active involvement of all stakeholders (from research, industry and policy), can standards be succesfully assimilated into the daily work-flow and thus increase efficiency and competitiveness of European life-science research.