Consider the challenge: An exhibition hall covered with exhibition booths large and small, accommodating the technologies of over 1000 different companies, stakeholders in the global analytical instrument market, estimated at over $60 billion annual revenues.
A large number of the exhibiting businesses will be developers and manufacturers of analytical instruments, and inventors and suppliers of technologies and parts essential for the production and running of analytical instruments. As every technology market, the analytical instrument market lives from the ingenuity of scientists and engineers to develop new technologies, which make the analytical experiments more precise, by achieving lower detection thresholds or increase reproducibility of repeated experimental runs, or to reduce the price and the environmental impact of single analytical procedures.
All these innovative teams presenting at Pittcon are vying for the attention of an audience to improve the practice of analytical chemistry to make this world we live in a better and safer place. Not only is the number of new technologies launched year after year staggering, but even more overwhelming are the many different applications, where these instruments and technologies might be used: from life science research, drug discovery and clinical diagnostics, to routine monitoring of the quality of manufactured goods or the continuous measurement of air and water quality.
A single attendee, trying to find the three best instruments or new technologies at a Pittcon exhibition will find it impossible to visit each and every booth, discuss in-depth the merits of the new developments and then make up his or her mind. Very likely, they will have to limit themselves to a certain group of technologies or focus on a small slice of applications. This, however, does not really reflect the overall impact of Pittcon for the markets of analytical instruments.
This is why over the last seventeen years all technology journalists accredited at Pittcon have been invited to select their three top choices from the new instrument launches at the annual exhibition. From this large number of nominations, an independent and self-assembled group of industry and technology observers picked the overall three winning instruments and technologies, after having discussed the novelty of approach or the possible market impact.
Over the years these top choices have included new developments of established technologies, particularly in the field of mass spectrometry and its coupling with other separation methods, a leading growth driver of the analytical instrument market over the last 20 years. However, they have also featured new concepts for the measurement challenges, for examples new particle analysers, such as the Affinity Biosensor from Archimedes or the IG-1000 from Shimadzu, or a Raman spectrometer that is able to also establish the topography of the area the spectrum was taken (WITec).
However, winners did not have to be fully-fledged analytical instruments. A number of elected developments were in the field of consumable handling, such as the Meltfit column connector (Nlisis) or a method to part-automate filtration and sample preparation, the Samplicity from Merck Millipore.
It is this overview of the analytical instrument industry that is the aim of these independent awards. They might hint at technology trends, but most important of all they show the industry at its most creative and inventive, give a snapshot of what the ingenuity of the engineering brains in its constituent businesses can produce.