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The medical devices industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increased need for homecare, preventative treatments, early diagnosis, reducing patient recovery times and improving outcomes, as well as a growing importance in technologies such as machine learning, augmented reality, 5G and digitalisation. In the last three years alone, there have been over 450,000 patents filed and granted in the medical devices industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics in Medical Devices: Robotic Lower Limb Rehabilitation. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

150+ innovations will shape the medical devices industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the medical devices industry using innovation intensity models built on over 550,000 patents, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, HUDs for surgical navigation, robotic biopsy endoscope, and camera-guided surgical robots are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Robotic exoskeleton, surgical robots, and robotic catheters are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are robotic lower limb rehabilitation and microfluidic lab-on-a-chip, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the medical devices industry

Robotic lower limb rehabilitation is a key innovation area in robotics

Several robots for lower-limb rehabilitation have been developed over the years to help patients regain the use of their injured limbs. These include patient-guided suspension systems, untethered exoskeletons, end-effector devices, and tethered exoskeletons. Robotic rehabilitation can take the role of a therapist's physical training efforts and increase the repetition and improvement of specific movements.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of robotic lower limb rehabilitation.

Key players in robotic lower limb rehabilitation – a disruptive innovation in the medical devices industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to robotic lower limb rehabilitation

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Samsung Group 259 Unlock Company Profile
Ekso Bionics Holdings 100 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 79 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 75 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 60 Unlock Company Profile
Cyberdyne 58 Unlock Company Profile
Otto Bock Holding 38 Unlock Company Profile
Suncall 28 Unlock Company Profile
LG 27 Unlock Company Profile
Rex Bionics 27 Unlock Company Profile
Parker Hannifin 26 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 22 Unlock Company Profile
ReWalk Robotics 21 Unlock Company Profile
Ossur hf 18 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 17 Unlock Company Profile
B-Temia 14 Unlock Company Profile
Spanish National Research Council 13 Unlock Company Profile
Superflex 12 Unlock Company Profile
OPUM Technologies 11 Unlock Company Profile
HaptX 11 Unlock Company Profile
Roam Robotics 10 Unlock Company Profile
Space Bio-Laboratories 10 Unlock Company Profile
EW Healthcare Partners 10 Unlock Company Profile
AlterG 10 Unlock Company Profile
Lite Run 10 Unlock Company Profile
ReWalk Robotics 10 Unlock Company Profile
iWalk 10 Unlock Company Profile
Wistron 9 Unlock Company Profile
ExoAtlet Global 8 Unlock Company Profile
Kessler Foundation 7 Unlock Company Profile
Hocoma 7 Unlock Company Profile
Bionic Power 7 Unlock Company Profile
Marsi Bionics 7 Unlock Company Profile
SRI International 6 Unlock Company Profile
Motorika 6 Unlock Company Profile
Fujikura 5 Unlock Company Profile
medica Medizintechnik 5 Unlock Company Profile
APOS Medical Assets 5 Unlock Company Profile
Yaskawa Electric 5 Unlock Company Profile
Trexo Robotics 5 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Electronics Holding 5 Unlock Company Profile
GaitTronics 5 Unlock Company Profile
Consejo Superior Investigacion 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Samsung Group is one of the leading patent filers in the field of robotic lower limb rehabilitation. Some other key patent filers in the field include Ekso Bionics, Toyota Motor, and Honda Motor.

In terms of application diversity, iWalk leads the pack, followed by Otto Bock and Superflex. By means of geographic reach, Safran held the top position, followed by B-Temia and EW Healthcare Partners in the second and third spots, respectively.

Robotic lower limb rehabilitation has the potential to change the way physiotherapists work. The demand for Robotic lower limb rehabilitation is growing due to the increasing need for physiotherapists and long-term rehabilitation programmes. Future research should focus on providing remote patient treatment and monitoring, improving the design, and expanding its usage to treat athletes rehabilitating from a spinal cord injury.

To further understand how robotics is disrupting the medical devices industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics in Medical (2021).

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.