Robotics for healthcare

Robotics is the branch of engineering and science that deals with the design, manufacturing and use of mechanical and virtual robots. A robot is an automated device capable of executing operations following a fix or adaptable program. Robotics implements their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. This multidisciplinary field includes mechanical, electronic, information engineering and computer science. The progress in robotics are re-shaping almost all field of human activity thanks notably to the ability of robots to repeat the same tasks identically, allowing humans to focus on more complex tasks

The word “Robotics” has been used for the first time by the science-fiction author Isaac Asimov, back in the 1940’s.

What do robotics bring to healthcare?

In healthcare, robots are helping to overcome human limitations in surgery, rehabilitation, assistance or facility management. Back in 1983, Arthrobot was the first robot to assist a surgeon in more than 60 arthroscopic surgical procedures. Since then, robots have entered the hospital as well as the operating room. In September 2016, the remotely controlled robotic surgeon called Robotic Retinal Dissection Device (R2D2) helped surgeons to remove a membrane 100th of a millimetre thick from a retina. This was the first time a robot had been used to conduct an operation of the eye. However robotic applications do not only restrain to surgery and include:

  • Robotic prosthesis
  • Assistive robots combined with mobility and cognitive support systems for enhanced post-surgery rehabilitation or to compensate neurologic disabilities
  • Ultra-high-resolution robotic assistance to precisely place stem cells in the eye, brain, heart to drive regeneration.
  • Supportive robots improving the complex logistics of large hospitals
  • Large in vitro assays facilities handled by robots allowing high-throughput screening for drug discovery and diagnosis procedures

    Minimally invasive surgical procedures

    More precise, quicker, safer surgery with faster recovery of patients


    Training of surgeons to increase proficiency


    Remote surgery


    Enhanced rehabilitation for patients both at hospital and at home

    Thanks to assistive robots like exoskeletons, lifting devices, remote communication robots or robotic prosthesis


    Quicker, automated and multiplex diagnosis


    Smarter hospitals

    Remote communication, medication & patient transport robots improving medical staff and patient’s condition

    Robotics for healthcare applications

    Functionalised, automated and connected surgical tools enhance the surgeon’s vision, precision and control during the operation

    Today, instruments can bend and rotate far beyond the human hand. They can also include magnified 3D-high definition vision systems.

    A robotic exoskeleton piloted by the patient’s brain signal

    An implantable device can record brain signal and decrypt it so the patient can pilot the robotic arms and legs of an ambulatory exoskeleton. The system allows paralyzed people to walk again. It is notably developed by Clinatec in Grenoble, France. Only the convergence of expertise in robotics, biomaterials and digital health allow to develop these complex systems

    Automated in vitro diagnosis analytical systems are already widely used for the detection of biomarkers of very diverse conditions

    It includes for example cancer, anaemia, autoimmunity, hypertension, diabetes, hepatitis tuberculosis or zika. They have been successful in making diagnosis easier, faster and more accurate. Various European companies have already successfully invested this market.

    The global nanomedicine market





    Annual growth rate




    How will NOBEL support the robotics for healthcare community?


    • The European project NOBEL is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) under Horizon 2020 aiming to help the convergence of robotics with other key enabling technologies with applications in healthcare: photonics, nanomedicine, advanced materials and digital health. NOBEL is coordinated by the ETP-Nanomedicine
    • European Technology Platforms (ETPs) represent each individual technological community at the European level and help bridging those communities with the European Commission. Six ETPs that have applications in healthcare are associated to NOBEL: ETP-Nanomedicine, Photonics21, EU-Robotics, EU-MAT, the European Society of Biomaterials and the ETP for Smart Systems Integration (EPoSS). The NOBEL Project provides them with a meeting space and dissemination by organising annual meetings of their representatives and sharing information from each of them to the HealthTech community
    • The NOBEL Project provides the ecosystem with strategic documents on the future of HealthTech in Europe by combining the inputs of all its Associated Partners in a single vision: the Continuum of Care, a vision for the future of healthcare in Europe. 

    NOBEL Booth at MedTech Forum 2018

    14th May 2018, Brussels

    First annual meeting of the European Technological Platforms (ETPs) representatives

    5th June 2018, Paris

    TAB Greet & Meet at MedFIT 2018

    25th June 2018, Strasbourg

    Third NOBEL Consortium meeting

    4th October 2018, Milan

    Introducing NOBEL's vision for the future of HealthTech during INDTECH 2018

    30th October 2018, Vienna

    All terms are defined in the Glossary

    The list of technologies/products/companies described in these fact sheets is not exhaustive and does not intend to promote any particular actor of the HealthTech community nor to advertise particular product/company.