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German robotics companies are increasingly shifting production from fully automated production plants for the auto industry to automated manufacture of protective masks. The EUR 15 billion industry is stepping in to provide automated laboratory testing using robots in order to speed up the otherwise time-consuming blood testing process.
According to the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA), lab robots provide an invaluable alternative to manual test execution, particularly with lab capacities being stretched to their limits and where test installations cannot be converted flexibly enough for test variants and new, modified test procedures.
Robots are also being used to safeguard strict hygiene requirements. Specialized robots are helping disinfect hospitals by emitting concentrated UV-C light to eliminate bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. This allows medical facilities to guarantee a 99.9 percent disinfection rate, thereby reducing the potential risk of Covid-19 infection to patients, hospital staff and their immediate families.
Strict social distancing requirements have likewise led to an increase in the use of service robots to entertain nursing home residents currently facing a strict visiting ban. Service robots are also being put to good use in German supermarkets to inform customers on Covid-19 behavioral rules when shopping.
The European Commission has launched the AI-ROBOTICS vs COVID-19 initiative to ideas about deployable artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics solutions as well as information on other initiatives that could help face the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The aim is to create a unique solutions and initiatives repository that is easily accessible to all citizens, stakeholders and policymakers as part of a common European response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The European Commission is also currently analyzing funding opportunities available to support AI-ROBOTICS vs COVID-19 solutions and initiatives. The Horizon 2020-funded DIGITAL INNOVATION HUBS in HEALTHCARE ROBOTICS (DIH-HERO) project has issued an emergency call for late-stage robotic technologies and solutions that can be deployed in the healthcare sector quickly to help healthcare professionals meet current clinical demand and need.
The deadline for the technology experiment transfer call has been extended until June 15, 2020. The call is intended to provide financial support for eligible pan-European cross-border collaboration projects across five application areas of diagnostic robotics, interventional robotics, rehabilitation robotics, robotics supporting patients, and robotics supporting healthcare professionals.
As well as promoting technology transfer from non-healthcare actors, DIH-HERO seeks to overcome implementation hurdles that might otherwise hinder new medical technology business and to create new value chain links. As the current coronavirus crisis is showing, real and very significant potential exists for robot application in the healthcare sector and rehabilitation robotics industry.
DIH-HERO is an independent platform that connects Digital Innovation Hubs across Europe to create a sustaining network for actors active in the healthcare robotics sector. The project consortium consists of 17 core partners spread across 11 pan-European countries.