ION-DRI Programme


New four degree vending machines at Queen Square House

We talk to Dr Sergey Novoselov about taking part in the new four degree vending machine pilot, which is being rolled out across Queen Square House, cutting down deliveries and saving space.

We’re working on a series of new initiatives that will change the way we work. We’re currently trialling new technologies and systems that can improve on our current methods, embracing collaboration and sharing facilities to create efficient and sustainable ways of working that we could roll out across both Grays Inn Road and Queen Square.  

Dr Sergey Novoselov takes some tissue culture medium from the four degree vending machine

Our new Grays Inn Road building is next-door to a residential area, so the number of deliveries we can receive per week is restricted.

A typical day at Queen Square House can see up to around 70 separate deliveries arrive on site. That’s a lot of vans, delivery drivers, admin and waste, so we have been working on a number of ways to reduce these. 

As well as being a necessary part of the move, finding ways to improve our supply processes has been a priority for some time, driven by the need to reduce our carbon footprint, cut waste and free up space in the lab.

As part of the logistics initiative, we have been running a pilot scheme in Neuromuscular Diseases, since Feb 2022, of a four degree vending machine (or Supply Centre), supplied by ThermoFisher. The machine supplies high-demand lab consumables to research groups, reducing the admin burden of ordering materials.

The vending machine is basically a very large fridge, with a console attached. Researchers swipe a card, associated with the grant to be charged, to open the door. They then select the items they want, scan those and take their items back to the lab, the rest is managed by the admin team.

Dr Sergey Novoselov is both a lab manager and UCL research staff, across two different labs in Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy and Neuromuscular Diseases Departments.
“Having a vending machine is a big help to how much of my day-to-day work I have to dedicate towards supporting the labs. Scientists can have very different approaches to planning, so some are better than others at getting their reagents and consumables in advance. It’s very easy now for researchers – you don’t have any administrative work or have to place orders, so it means I’m interrupted far less from my own scientific work.’

Irina Proulova is the administrator in the department and has been helping guide the pilot and deal with the admin side of things, logging on each week to stocktake, place orders and generate purchase orders. “The suppliers web portal is very clear, so even though it’s an additional task for me, it’s a very straightforward routine thing.”.

ThermoFisher then send out the items weekly, as a consolidated delivery on Tuesdays, and Lab Manager team restocks the machine. 

The ThermoFisher supply centre

Project Manager Kully Sunner said “By introducing the vend, we can reduce deliveries to just one or two per week. Researchers are only charged for items vended. ThermoFisher own the products in the vend until they are bought, cutting down on our consumable waste”

Sergey agrees: “Previously we would buy in bulk, so every lab manager might stock, say, ten bottles of tissue culture media in their own lab fridges. Now we can just go down and collect one or two bottles for immediate use.”

The supply centre, currently in use only in Neuromuscular Diseases, has been growing in popularity and while scientists can still choose to place their orders manually, people are starting to use the vending machine more and more.

Sergey said: “As I’m based in two labs, the team I work with on the 7th floor were really impressed and could see how easy things were with the supply centre, so requested card access, and have been using the vend too.” 

Following the pilot, access to the vending machines will now be rolled out across all research groups in Queen Square House. ThermoFisher will be on site in early November at Queen Square House foyer to introduce the new machines and show new users how they work. 

Other vends are in the planning stage, too, including a -20 degree/room temperature double vend from Promega.

For more information on vending machines at Queen Square House, contact Kully Sunner k.sunner@ucl.ac.uk