The competitiveness of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry is based on ensuring the required product quality while making optimum use of plants, raw materials, and energy. In this context, effective process control using reliable chemical process analytics secures global competitiveness. The setup of those control strategies often originate in process development but need to be transferable along the whole product life cycle. In this series of two contributions, we want to present a combined view on the future of PAT (process analytical technology), which is projected in smart labs (part 1) and smart sensors (part 2). In laboratories and pilot plants, offline chemical analytical methods are frequently used, where inline methods are also used in production. Here, a transferability from process development to the process in operation would be desirable. This can be obtained by establishing PAT methods for production already during process development or scale-up. However, the current PAT (Bakeev 2005, Org Process Res 19:3-62; Simon et al. 2015, Org Process Res Dev 19:3-62) must become more flexible and smarter. This can be achieved by introducing digitalization-based knowledge management, so that knowledge from product development enables and accelerates the integration of PAT. Conversely, knowledge from the production process will also contribute to product and process development. This contribution describes the future role of the laboratory and develops requirements therefrom. In part 2, we examine the future functionality as well as the ingredients of a smart sensor aiming to eventually fuel full PAT functionality-also within process development or scale-up facilities (Eifert et al. 2020, Anal Bioanal Chem).