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KUKA Innovation Award 2016 - now accepting entries

The international competition for the 2016 KUKA Innovation Award has kicked off. This year’s call for participation has been dubbed the “Flexible Manufacturing Challenge”. As of mid-August, research and development teams from across the globe have been able to submit entries for the 20,000 euro prize. The submission deadline is October 16, 2015.

27 August 2015

In this year’s call for participation, KUKA – the specialist for robot-based automation solutions – has placed the focus on flexible manufacturing. The factory of the future must be equipped to meet the growing requirements resulting from increasing product diversity coupled with decreasing batch sizes. To achieve this, versatile production systems are necessary as well as continuous communication between the systems involved – which then organize themselves based on the data exchanged. These are important characteristics of Industrie 4.0.


The task for contestants is to develop an innovative robot application that is suited to the requirements of flexible manufacturing. The application that is developed must be demonstrated in a realistic working environment and support humans through direct collaboration in performing a realistic task. To enable fair comparison of the innovations, the developments must be implemented on a KUKA LBR iiwa – the sensitive lightweight robot for safe human-robot collaboration. The robot manufacturer will also provide participants with access to a KUKA flexFellow – a mobile robotic unit on which the LBR iiwa is mounted. In the event of demand peaks or bottlenecks in resources, the flexFellow can be very quickly deployed exactly where it is needed and carry out the desired production operations.
Interested researchers and developers can submit their entries to KUKA by October 16, 2015. 


The international panel of judges will announce the finalists on October 26, 2015. These finalists will then have the next six months to transfer their developments to the LBR iiwa and to perfect them. The finalists will then present their applications to the specialist audience and expert jury at Hannover Messe in April 2016. The official award ceremony will also be held at the KUKA booth during the fair.


KUKA set up the Innovation Award to promote innovation in the field of robot-based automation and to support technology transfer from science to industry.
The award was first presented during Automatica 2014 and focused on the topic of mobile manipulation. The winning team from the University of Zurich demonstrated its application concerning the cooperation of a quadcopter with a KUKA youBot moving along the ground. The quadcopter, equipped with a camera, autonomously flew around a defined area, generated a map of it and transferred the information to the youBot.
At this year’s Hannover Messe, the prize went to an Italian research team. In the application they demonstrated that a human could intuitively move the lightweight robot LBR iiwa through its workspace by using a sensorized exoskeleton capable of detecting the shoulder and elbow joint angles of the human operator. Conversely, the exoskeleton’s motors were capable to provide force feedback of the LBR iiwa interaction with its environment to the human. This can be applied to applications in telepresence and rehabilitation treatment. Human-robot collaboration was the focus of the 2015 KUKA Innovation Award.