ABB Robotics: Improving collaboration between humans and machines

The Space

The global market for robots is growing at an annual rate of around 26%, breaching the $34bn mark this year (2020) with some forecasts showing a market worth $210bn by 2025. Driven in part by technology advances, this market is also expanding rapidly from early strongholds of heavy industry and manufacturing and into industries such as healthcare, defence, logistics and food and beverage too. Previously, robotics buyers and users were the largest companies who could afford the high capital cost, limited flexibility and trained staff to set-up and run robots. This market expansion is also due in part due to more affordable and collaborative robots which are more flexible in terms of the range of tasks they can do and simpler in terms of set-up and use.

The Brief

With advances in the market happening at such a high pace, we were asked to take ABB Robotics on a journey of discovery to understand what was going on and present opportunities to get involved outside of the business with promising ventures and innovators. Ultimately this would position the business to roll-out new products and features and get involved in new areas of robotics such as the growing collaborative robotics sector.

What We Did
  • Identified the need: A series of strategic projects to understand and plan an approach to the nascent collaborative robot market, responding to competitive actions and planning a course for the future. Driving out key themes and challenge areas on which to focus our open innovation efforts.
  • Summarised and ran the challenge: Having accurately identified the business needs we developed a multi-year series of open innovation challenges, scouting the market and identifying potential partners and collaborators while exposing the business to new innovations across the global robotics market. Each year the focus of scouting was refined based on previous learnings, the developing markets and business need. Each round refined the need, types of solution and offering to the market. 
  • Filled the need: Found, engaged and shortlisted only the best ventures from around the world who were capable of both addressing the challenge topic but also achieved a good fit with the ABB business in terms of direction, ambition and approach. Through a series of online engagements and in-person pitch day we helped ABB select the best ventures for collaboration.

What Happened Next

Several investments, partnerships and collaborative projects later, ABB continues to engage with start-ups across different business units with a number of new offerings in the market as a result.