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: Surgical Robots.

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

Surgical robots is a key innovation area in robotics

Surgical robots automate all or part of the medical surgery process. Surgical robots are designed to solve the limitations currently present in minimally invasive surgeries (MIS), as well as to improve outcomes in open surgical procedures. These systems are utilised in a variety of surgical procedures, including cardiovascular, general surgery, orthopaedic, neurosurgery, obstetrics, and gynaecology.

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 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of surgical robots.

Key players in surgical robots – 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’.

Intuitive Surgical is one of the leading patent filers in the field of surgical robots. Some other key patent filers in the field include Olympus and Johnson & Johnson.

In terms of application diversity, Edwards Lifesciences leads the pack, followed by Waters and DEKA Research and Development. By means of geographic reach, Medrobotics holds the top position, followed by Becton Dickinson and Creo Medical Group in second and third spots, respectively.

The segment’s prevalence is increasing, evidenced by Intuitive Surgical’s daVinci system that is known to have performed more than seven million procedures since its launch, leading to a significant investment in medical robotics.

Surgical robots are expected to have far-reaching implications in the field of surgery as they offer minimally invasive procedures that present fewer complications with a shorter recovery time. The surgical robot market is expected to grow at a lucrative rate driven by the acceptance from medical fraternity and patients at large, and by the increasing demand for automation to meet the treatment needs of ever-growing population suffering from urological, neurological, and gynaecological, and other diseases.

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

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.