TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY FOR DEVELOPING THE ASSISTIVE ROBOTICS MARKET
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Robotics has increased productivity in industries such as manufacturing, defence and construction but less so in healthcare where, despite the pressures from demographic changes, barriers to the adoption of assistive robotics (AR) persist. Due to the cutting-edge nature of the technology, the field requires studies that explore how it is developed and applied, effectively resulting in the development of an AR market in healthcare. Therefore, the research question for this thesis is ‘What strategy can be adopted to develop the AR market?’ This thesis adopted a Collaborative Action Research methodology to explore the development of an AR market in one UK region (Cornwall), and through this experience develop a Technology Strategy for building and orchestrating the creation of AR markets in other regions. This thesis is based on interdisciplinary research that draws from fields such as business management, entrepreneurship policy, robotics development and evaluation, and health technology adoption research. The intervention in Cornwall focussed on two key market constituents: the healthcare sector and producers (suppliers, i.e. firms and developers). The main work with the healthcare sector focused on supporting the AR adoption process. To this end, 35 events in Cornwall were used to raise awareness of AR, exploring healthcare challenges and the sector’s role in co-creation activities. The main work with the producers was to identify market barriers while actively supporting them in the product development process. Here, 28 AR companies in total from the UK, Ireland, the US, France and China working at different business stages were supported as part of this activity. Eight case studies were generated, including two completed trials of AR and two external strategic partnerships. An entrepreneurship programme that supported 58 entrepreneurs was designed, creating four robotic start-ups for the region. Finally, a lab for the evaluation of AR technologies to support companies was also established. Through the work with the healthcare sector, this thesis identified a lack of awareness of the AR market and the critical role that the sector plays in its development process. On the supply side, this thesis explored the main market barriers, including a lack of specialized agencies at a planning level, a fragmented healthcare sector that inhibits entrepreneurship, and outdated governmental policies for technology-based innovations. Overall, the findings confirmed a complete lack of preparedness and a need for changing traditional methods that are blocking innovation. Building upon these findings, this thesis presents a Technology Strategy for the creation of AR markets. The strategy offers practical recommendations on how regions can build and benefit from AR development. Through co-creation and open innovation principles, the strategy establishes key market actors and the multilateral nature of relationships between them. It also details a complete entrepreneurship programme to create companies for the region and business platforms to start the AR market. For the healthcare sector, it describes a complete AR knowledge awareness programme to guide the engagement with the sector. For the producers, it presents best practices and a new model for the development of AR technologies. This is the first study of its kind to offer a sector-specific Technology Strategy for the emerging AR market, aiming to improve the consolidation of this sector. The strategy could be used in regions that share characteristics with Cornwall, but its applicability to other regions is also worth exploring.