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KUKA Innovation Award 2020

The winners of the KUKA Innovation Award 2020 have been announced: an Italian research team convinced the jury with its innovative concept for a non-invasive surgical procedure using state-of-the-art technology. The Innovation Award is endowed with 20,000 euros.

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 had time 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 have received a training for the hardware and coaching from KUKA experts throughout the competition. At virtual.MEDICA from 16-19.11.2020, the finalists presented their concepts to an international audience of experts and to the Innovation Award jury. The winner of the KUKA Innovation Award 2020, worth 20,000 euros, is Team HIFUSK from the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Italy.

The Winners

Team HIFUSK (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy)

HIFUSK can address unmet clinical needs in the treatment of pathological tissues, like cancerous tissues. HIFUSK is the marriage of 2 technologies: robotics and focused ultrasound. Such a combination results in a surgical treatment which is precise thanks to robotics and non-invasive (no incisions, no anesthesia, no ionizing energy) thanks to focused ultrasound. Robotic control and machine learning algorithms ensure safety even in case of target motions during the therapy. We validated our platform in a dry lab/ex-vivo scenario and we received the approval for in-vivo tests of HIFU robotic treatments.


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 CoNeeBot

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.