Principles for Managing Your Core Facility Like A Business

Learn about the key principles and strategies for managing your core facility to ensure long-term success.


Ensuring the success of your core facility requires managing it like a business. This involves several key principles and strategies:

  1. Develop a business plan: Develop a clear business plan that outlines the core’s goals, objectives, and strategies. This plan should include a detailed analysis of the core's target market, its services and pricing, and its operating costs and revenue projections.
  2. Market your lab: Develop a strong marketing strategy to promote your lab's services to potential customers. Use a variety of marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, symposia, workshops, and conferences to reach a broad audience.
  3. Establish partnerships: Partner with other organizations, such as biotech companies, academic institutions, or research hospitals to expand your core's customer base and increase revenue.
  4. Track performance metrics: Establish performance metrics to track the core's success, such as customer satisfaction, quality, turnaround times, and revenue growth. Use these metrics to identify areas for improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly.
  5. Implement automation: Automating workflows can save substantially on costs and reduces the labor required to maintain the laboratory. Visit our Lab Automation Resource Center that includes several guides on how to implement automation.
  6. Focus on quality: Ensure that your core lab provides high-quality, reliable services by investing in the latest equipment and technologies, building effective training programs, and implementing rigorous quality control measures.

By applying these principles, your core facility can establish a strong reputation, attract customers, and generate sustainable revenue, while advancing scientific research and innovation. We will go into the details of each principle in this article.

Develop a Business Plan

An ideal business plan for a core facility should provide a clear roadmap for achieving the core's goals and objectives while ensuring financial sustainability. Here are some key components of an ideal business plan:

  1. Executive Summary: Overview of the mission, goals, and strategies, highlighting the unique value proposition of the core.
  2. Market Analysis: Analyzes the market and identifies the target customer base, including academic institutions, research organizations, and biotech companies.
  3. Services and Pricing: Outlines the services, pricing, and service level agreements (SLAs), including options for standard or custom services.
  4. Equipment and Technology: Overview of the equipment, software, and technologies, highlighting their advantages and limitations.
  5. Staffing and Expertise: Outlines the staffing plan and expertise, including bioinformatics, sample preparation, and instrument usage/maintenance, ensuring that the lab has the necessary skills and experience to provide high-quality services.
  6. Quality Control: Describes quality control measures, including protocols for sample handling, sample preparation, and instrument use, to ensure that results are accurate, reliable, and reproducible.
  7. Marketing and Sales: Outlines the marketing and sales strategy, including targeted marketing campaigns, networking opportunities, and customer engagement programs.
  8. Financial Plan: Provides a detailed financial analysis, including startup costs, revenue projections, and expense forecasts. It also outlines a pricing strategy that will enable the lab to operate sustainably.
  9. Risk Analysis: Identifies potential risks and challenges that the lab may face, including market saturation, changing technology, and regulatory changes.

Overall, an ideal business plan for a core facility should provide a comprehensive overview of the core's operations, strategies, and financial projections, ensuring that the core is positioned for long-term success in a competitive and rapidly evolving market.

Market Your Lab

Effective marketing of your core facility requires a strategic and targeted approach that leverages multiple channels to reach potential customers within your institution. By building relationships, providing educational resources, and promoting your lab's expertise, you can establish a strong reputation and generate interest in your services. Here are some effective ways to market your core lab:

Build a Professional Image and Online Presence

Your web page is the face of your core lab. Create a professional and informative website that highlights your services, expertise, and equipment. Make sure the website is easy to navigate and provides clear contact information. If the website is not user-friendly and customers can’t find the information they need, they will look elsewhere. This does not mean the page needs to be extremely complex, just simple to use and professional in appearance. A webpage that looks unprofessional will reflect poorly on your core lab.

Create Awareness

Consider attending seminars that cater to the relevant audience and use these opportunities to promote your core facility. Distribute flyers and organize training or educational events. Schedule meetings with potential customers within the institution. It's crucial to foster a friendly rapport and build trust with them. If your potential customers already have an external provider meeting their needs, earning their trust is important for them to consider switching to your services. Focus on generating awareness locally as most of your customers will be within your institution. Schedule local events or present during department seminars to continuously drive awareness of your services.

Provide Training and Education

Consider offering training sessions and educational workshops to researchers within your institution. This will help foster relationships with potential customers and enhance their understanding of your core’s capabilities. Hosting a workshop on techniques could be beneficial for young investigators, and simultaneously raise awareness about the core facility. Moreover, such educational events can serve as an excellent platform to recruit staff, addressing turnover that is common in core facilities.

Attend Conferences and Events

Attend both local and national scientific conferences and events to network with other researchers, showcase your core's expertise, and stay updated on the latest trends in the field. Attending and speaking at meetings hosted by your institution that attract your target audience can be particularly impactful. You can also consider organizing your own local event on campus in which local investigators are invited to discuss their work and present posters.

Develop Marketing Materials

Create brochures, flyers, or posters that promote your core's services and distribute them within your institution. Make sure these materials clearly communicate the benefits of working with your core lab, especially unique features of your service, and provide contact information for potential customers.

Use Digital Marketing Tools

The most efficient and cost-effective digital marketing tactics available to you would be email and social media. You can send emails to opted-in contacts and internal institutional departments and communicate with existing followers on social media. While these tactics take some time and effort, they are free of cost.

You can also create paid ads on social media platforms (e.g., LinkedIn) to reach potential new customers within your institution. There are geofencing options that allow targeting specific locations such as your city. Share updates about your core's services, equipment, and research projects, and engage with your followers by answering their questions and comments. You can also use Google Ads to increase traffic to your site. This will ensure you rank high on Google searches when local researchers are looking for your core's services online. However, Google Ads and paid social media marketing may not be necessary unless you aim to expand outside your institution.

Establish Partnerships

Developing Partnerships

Developing partnerships can be an effective way for your core facility to expand business and increase impact. Collaborate with other departments or research groups within your institution to offer joint research projects or co-author publications. This can help expand your lab's visibility and attract potential customers. Collaborating with local companies and research groups outside your institution can also help expand the reach of your core, as many companies use academic core lab services. Here are some suggestions on how to develop partnerships:

Identify Potential Partners

Start by identifying potential partners in your institution or the wider research community. This could include other core labs, research groups, or industry partners. The more connected the investigator is within your institution, the more impact a partnership will have.

Assess Needs

Once you have identified potential partners, assess their needs and determine how your core lab can help them. This could involve providing services, data analysis, or training.

Create a Value Proposition

Develop a clear value proposition that outlines the benefits of partnering with your core lab. This could include access to state-of-the-art technology, expertise in data analysis, or cost-effective pricing.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

Establish clear communication channels with your partners to ensure that expectations are aligned and that there is ongoing collaboration. This could involve regular meetings, email updates, or online collaboration platforms.

Develop Joint Projects

Collaborate with your partners on joint projects to demonstrate the value of working together. This could involve co-authoring papers, sharing data, or presenting at conferences together.

Build a Network

Build a network of partners and collaborators to expand your core lab's reach and impact. This could involve attending conferences, hosting workshops, or participating in collaborative research projects.

By developing partnerships with other research groups, core labs, and industry partners, your core lab can grow its business and increase its impact in the research community.

Track Performance Metrics

You can track your core’s performance by monitoring various Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure that it is meeting its objectives and operating efficiently. Here are some KPIs that a core lab may consider tracking:

Turnaround Time (TAT)

TAT is the time from sample receipt to the delivery of the final data. This KPI measures the efficiency of the lab's workflow, including sample processing, sample preparation, instrument run time, and data analysis. Shorter TAT is usually preferred by customers, so tracking this KPI can help the lab maintain high customer satisfaction.

Sample Throughput

Sample throughput is the number of samples processed within a given time. What is the lab’s total output? Are there backlogs? Achieving high throughput can increase the lab's efficiency and productivity, which can lead to higher profitability. However, high throughput should not come at the expense of data quality or TAT.


How often are samples lost? How often are samples mixed up or misidentified? What is the error rate? Examine your workflow and identify stages where errors can occur. Tracking this can help you pinpoint which areas need the most improvement and allow prioritization.

Instrument Utilization

Instrument utilization is the percentage of time that instruments are engaged in tasks. Low instrument utilization can indicate inefficient workflow or suboptimal scheduling, which can result in longer TAT and lower profitability.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction can be measured through customer surveys or feedback. High customer satisfaction can enhance the lab's reputation, leading to repeat business and referrals.

Overall, tracking these KPIs can help a core lab optimize its workflow, enhance data quality, improve efficiency, and increase customer satisfaction, leading to higher profitability and a stronger competitive position in the market.

Implement Automation

Lab automation can help improve throughput, turnaround time, quality, and customer satisfaction. To learn more about how to automate your core lab, visit our Lab Automation Resource Center that discusses how to choose instruments, what to consider when automating a new process, and how to automate specific processes such as nucleic acid extraction.


Focus on Quality (NGS Core Lab)

Most core facilities have access to the same instruments, therefore your quality of service is key to differentiating your core from competitors. Here we describe how a next-generation sequencing (NGS) core facility can ensure high-quality service.

Meet Customer Expectations

A large part of meeting customer expectations is managing their expectations to ensure that you can deliver the service that is promised. For low-quality samples, such as highly degraded RNA from FFPE tissue, it may be difficult to meet customer expectations. In this case, you should assess the quality of the samples (e.g., ProNex® DNA QC Assay) before initiating the process. Then communicate those findings with the customer and set expectations up front. Having control over the entire process helps to ensure a consistent output. Therefore, it is preferable to manage the process from start to finish, including performing the extractions.

Does your core lab perform manual nucleic acid extraction? Need a compact, load-and-go automated solution to increase throughput and consistency? Learn about the Maxwell® Instruments.


Quality Control

Your NGS workflow should have checkpoints within the process to provide customers with visibility. Implementing such controls not only benefits your own operation but is often appreciated by customers as an assurance of accuracy and reliability of the results. Include appropriate reference materials and controls, such as the ERCC (External RNA Controls Consortium) standards, especially for RNA sequencing experiments.

Here are some best practices for quality control in an NGS core facility:

Quality Control of Starting Material:

  • Assess the quality and quantity of nucleic acids using appropriate methods such as fluorescence (e.g., QuantiFluor® dsDNA System), absorbance or gel electrophoresis.
  • Qualify and quantify your samples using qPCR to understand amplifiability and usability downstream (e.g. ProNex® DNA QC Assay).
  • Ensure the purity and integrity of nucleic acid samples.

Library Preparation:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the library preparation kit meticulously.
  • Use high-fidelity enzymes and high-quality reagents.
  • Minimize the number of PCR cycles to reduce PCR bias and errors.
  • Use negative controls to check for contamination.
  • Verify the size distribution and concentration of the library.

Indexed Adapters:

  • Use unique indexed adapters to allow for multiplexing and to minimize index hopping.
  • Confirm that indices are balanced and compatible.

Quantification and Pooling:

  • Accurately quantify libraries using qPCR or other reliable methods.
  • Ensure even representation of libraries when pooling for multiplexed sequencing.

Quality Control Before Sequencing:

  • Assess the quality of pooled libraries before loading onto the sequencer.
  • Ensure that the library pool meets the requirements for the specific NGS platform.


  • Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for setting up and running the sequencer.
  • Use the recommended loading concentrations to achieve the desired cluster density.
  • Ensure that the sequencing kit reagents are fresh and have been properly stored.
  • Conduct routine maintenance on the sequencer to ensure its proper function.

Data Analysis:

  • Use appropriate and validated bioinformatics pipelines for data analysis.
  • Verify that the sequencing depth is sufficient for the intended analysis.
  • Ensure that the data meets quality standards before proceeding with downstream analyses.

Documentation and Record-Keeping:

  • Maintain a detailed and organized laboratory notebook, recording all procedures, conditions, and observations.
  • Document the lot numbers of reagents and kits, and the serial numbers of equipment used.

Technical Support and Training:

  • Engage with technical support for troubleshooting and optimization.
  • Stay updated with the latest protocols, software updates, and best practices by attending training, workshops, and webinars.

Validation and Replication:

  • Perform technical replicates to ensure the reliability of results.
  • Validate key findings using alternative methods.

Data Management:

  • Store raw data and analysis files in a secure and organized manner.
  • Follow your institution’s guidelines for data management and sharing.

Maintain a Clean and Organized Workspace:

  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping a clean and organized workspace.
  • Separate pre- and post-PCR work areas and use dedicated equipment if possible.

By adhering to these best practices, you can greatly enhance the reliability, accuracy, and reproducibility of your NGS library preparation and sequencing experiments.

Sequencing Files

Ensure the transfer of sequencing files is as seamless as possible. This aspect of your final product is crucial, as most of the other work remains invisible to the customer. The sequencing files are likely to be the main interface between you and the customer, hence simplifying this process is essential.


While sequencing is the main service, if your facility also handles the informatics, then the report generated is essentially the final product. Therefore, you should put substantial effort into ensuring this report is user-friendly. It should be easy to understand, access, and manipulate for the user.

Interested in Automating Your Lab?

Visit our Lab Automation Resource Center to learn how to choose instruments, what to consider when automating a new process, and how to automate nucleic acid extraction.

View Lab Automation Resources