KUKA Innovation Award

Innovation Award 2020: Medical Robotics Challenge

This year, the KUKA Innovation Award’s international jury of experts received a total of more than 40 ideas. The five finalist teams now have until November to implement their ideas. A KUKA LBR Med lightweight robot – the first robotic component to be certified for integration into a medical device – has been made available to them for this purpose. Beyond this, the teams receive a training for the hardware and coaching from KUKA experts throughout the competition. The finalists present their concepts to an international specialist audience at the largest medical technology trade fair MEDICA in November, and the jury crowns the winner of the 20,000 EUR KUKA Innovation Award.

The finalists

Team SAHARRA (Slovak University of Technology, Slovakia)

During laser hair removal, a highly concentrated light enters the hair follicle. There, the laser light is then absorbed by the pigment at the hair root and generates heat. This damages the hair follicle and thus inhibits future hair growth. Team SAHARRA is developing a robot application to improve the precision and speed of the treatment. To achieve this, a navigation system determines the exact areas to be treated in conjunction with an LBR Med. In this way unnecessary double treatments can be avoided.



Team CONEEBot (Hamburg University of Technology, Germany)

Needles are important instruments for carrying out minimally invasive treatments such as biopsies. There is a long history of investigating image-assisted processes and robotics in order to provide support during precise needle positioning. Up to now, this has mostly involved aligning the needle with the target using the robot. The doctor then has the task of moving the needle into the target area. This task is made more difficult through deformations in soft tissue as well as through a bending of the needle upon insertion. Team CONEEBOT’s goal is to develop a smart needle that recognizes its environment, to connect it to the robot and thus to help doctors in the correct positioning of the needle.



Team HIFUSK (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy)

Focused ultrasound surgery (FUS) is a non-invasive therapy method that has the potential to radically change cancer treatment. The therapy can be carried out as outpatient treatment as well as without incisions so that no scarring occurs. However, this method also has limited flexibility and can only be performed through medical imaging. By enhancing this therapy with an LBR Med, it is possible to achieve greater flexibility.



Team RAOCT (Duke University, USA)

Examinations of the eye can often only be carried out by ophthalmologists. One promising technology here is optical coherence tomography (OCT). Although this scanning method is considered standard technology for eye diseases, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, it must be operated by highly qualified specialists. In order to make this technology more accessible, robot technology will be used to automate and better align the tomograph as well as to simplify operator control.



Team SpheriObot (Shanghai Jiaotong University Affiliated Sixth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai Electric Group, China)

There are many patients with hip problems, including young people. The traditional treatment method for hip dysplasia – an insufficiently formed acetabulum – is periacetabular osteotomy (PAO). This unwieldy name refers to a procedure in which the hip socket is cut out and repositioned through several incisions. This can lead to damage of nerves or blood vessels. The team from China is developing a robot system that can reposition the hip socket in a targeted manner with fewer incisions thanks to a special saw. This can increase the precision of the operating method and thus lower the risk of surgical trauma.


Team SpheriObot

About the KUKA Innovation Award

The award is being presented for the seventh time. As the world's leading company in robot-based automation, KUKA has been working closely with scientists and R&D partners worldwide on various scientific and technical topics for many years. To strengthen this cooperation, the KUKA Innovation Award was launched in 2014.

The competition aims to accelerate the overall pace of innovation in the field of robot-based automation and to strengthen technology transfer from research to industry. It addresses developers, graduates and research teams of companies or universities.

The events at a glance

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