On October 2021, MassRobotics, Festo, and other key players in healthcare robotics, launched a Startup Catalyst Program to advance healthcare robotics companies around the world by providing the networking opportunities, guidance, and resources these companies need to grow and succeed. The aim of the program is to connect healthcare robotics startups with customers, investors, suppliers, marketing, and overall support. The program focused on startups in the areas of clinical care, public safety, laboratory, supply chain automation, out-of-hospital care, and quality of life, as well as continuity of work and education and training and support for healthcare professionals.
More than 30 companies applied from all over the world, and the selection committee invited four companies to join in the program. The participating startups completed impressive milestones, as detailed below.
Eureka Robotics develops and commercializes cutting-edge robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to automate high-accuracy, high-agility tasks. Eureka is currently completing fundraising rounds in Japan through connections provided by program mentors. Eureka was introduced to MassRobotics partner, Mitsubishi Electric, and signed a global partnership with Mitsubishi as a platinum partner. The program helped the company’s leadership to explore attractive applications in surgical lenses manufacturing technology, which is an extension to its focus on traditional manufacturing.
Bionomous provides laboratory equipment to automate the screening, sorting, and pipetting of miniature biological entities for more ethical and faster research in life science. CEO Frank Bonnet reports that with the aid of the Catalyst Program, Bionomous was able to run a pilot program in the United States, leading to the company’s first sales outside Europe. This convinced Bionomous to expand into the U.S. market and set up offices in the MassRobotics space in Boston. Bonnet emphasized the importance of the program’s mentors, who connected them to key industry leaders to open possibilities for future partnerships.
Kinarm uses robotic arms to provide an objective assessment method to identify, measure, and track cognitive motor or sensory impairments. (Credit: Kinarm)
Assistive Technology Development Inc. is a U.S. startup dedicated to at-home physical therapy solutions that are operable at a low cost and always accessible to rural patients and those who need closer monitoring for recovery. The company came into the program with three goals:
- Begin its first pilot study in a clinical setting.
- Downsize the actuation unit to a wearable form.
- Raise capital.
CEO Todd Roberts reports that with help from the program, the company has completed the first two milestones and is making progress on the third. It began phase I of a pilot study with UCHealth, a not-for-profit healthcare system, headquartered in Aurora, CO, in April 2022. The study is assessing the early clinical efficacy and collecting patient and clinician feedback. Assistive’s actuation unit has been downsized by 70 percent, from a large, wall-powered, benchtop system to a wearable, battery-powered system that will enable the company to complete the pilot. Finally, Assistive is in the process of raising capital and has begun diligence with two firms.
Kinarm uses robotic arms to provide an objective assessment method to identify, measure, and track cognitive motor or sensory impairments resulting from injury or disease. Kinarm worked with assigned mentors from the robotics ecosystem who provided introductions to industry leaders who responded with “jaw-dropping, you-can-do-that?” exclamations, reports Anne Vivian-Scott, CEO. Vivian-Scott was also introduced to experienced healthcare robotics leaders who will collaboratively aid Kinarm as the company scales its solutions. She adds, “What we gained was not specific knowledge that can be encoded into our product, but direction. Quite frankly, most other programs are not ‘sufficiently vested’ in the participant’s business/opportunity to be able to offer such feedback.”
“I am grateful to Festo’s pioneering work to support our efforts to find global disrupting applications and startups in such a human-care field like healthcare, including life science, biotech, and medical devices,” says Fady Saad of MassRobotics. Festo’s Alfons Riek adds, “I am impressed with the quality of applications we received, and the unique structure of the program that allowed us to select such innovative companies and match them with world-class advisors. Certainly, we are excited about the networking opportunities opened to these companies and to presenting them to the world as great examples of the power of utilizing robotics in healthcare.”
MassRobotics, Festo, and additional corporations have planned to launch the second version of the program to build on the programs’ momentum and impact.
MassRobotics is the result of the collective work of a group of engineers, rocket scientists, and entrepreneurs with a shared vision to create an innovation hub and startup cluster focused on the needs of the robotics and IoT community. MassRobotics’ mission is to help create and scale the next generation of successful robotics and connected devices companies by providing entrepreneurs and innovative robotics/automation startups with the workspace and resources they need to develop, prototype, test, and commercialize their products and solutions.
Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. Festo has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to the sustainable development of the environment, the economy, and society. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. The lifetech sector with medical technology and laboratory automation is becoming increasingly important. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 20,000 employees in over 250 branch offices in 61 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €2.84 billion in 2020. Each year around 8 percent of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 percent of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Festo Didactic SE is a leading provider of technical education and training and offers its customers worldwide comprehensive digital and physical learning solutions in the industrial environment.