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Marta Portales

How RobotUnion partners and startups fight against coronavirus

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In light of the latest developments of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on public and private entities across Europe, activities of Robotics companies might be affected in different ways, especially those with international and distributed nature. RobotUnion mentors, companies and partners are spread all over Europe and our events, meetings, customer relations are moving to a solely digital dimension.

Many partners and startups who are part of the RobotUnion program have launched initiatives to support the fight against the pandemic in these difficult times. Below the list:


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented health and social crisis. We can all contribute to limiting COVID-19’s transmission and impact. BLUMORPHO, EuroScan international network and co-operation partners has decided to offer their resources in the call #unitedagainstcovid19.

We are encouraging you to showcase your solutions to contribute to help citizens and health organizations in the fight against COVID-19. Your solutions will be evaluated by EuroScan international networks members and cooperation partners from  Health Authorities and experts to disseminate and facilitate their use. All solutions that will contribute to limit COVID-19 transmission and impact are expected. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented health, social and economic crisis all over the world. To participate in the fight against the virus, Governments are calling for help and several initiatives have been launched to limit its transmission and impact.

Fundingbox has prepared the list with the public funding opportunities like open calls, campaigns and hackathons to contribute in the Coronavirus fight

Moreover, 136 teams from 17 research projects across the European Union will soon receive €47.5 million to make the most of their expertise and technologies to detect the disease, treat and protect patients. Discover the research projects and initiatives to tackle the spread of coronavirus and preparedness for other outbreaks.

Other organisations are contributing to the fight of the Coronavirus too: the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Foundation and partners have launched the first-of-its-kind COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund

From ISDI we want to join all those who are offering help to those small and medium enterprises to help alleviate the problems they may be facing. As you all know, Coronavirus is a global pandemic that affects the most important thing, everyone’s health, but also many startups, SMEs and freelancers who will be forced to take on debt, lay off or even close down.

That’s why we bring you our own initiative and a couple of links that may be useful for you. Entrepreneurship and technological perks:

  • If you are interested in offering a free or discounted product or service to help others cope with the Coronavirus.
  • If you are having problems with your startup, SME or as a self-employed due to Coronavirus and you want to see the services that have been offered.

The community is mobilizing and there are free or highly discounted service offerings everywhere to help the people and businesses who need it most in these complex times. But they are not always being picked up and displayed in a common place to help those who want to use them. 


Nido Robotics wanted to contribute to the defeat of the COVID-19, by using their technology and producing protective screens for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

NIDO Robotics has partnered with the Digital Craftsmanship Laboratory in San Pedro del Pinatar, Makers in Alicante and the CoronaMakers group in Murcia, in order to produce the largest number of PPE items in the most efficient, fastest way possible. The goal is to produce between 500 and 2000 PPE per day to be delivered to the health services in Murcia and Alicante. In addition to the Guardia Civil, local and national police forces, etc.

 After a great effort, they delivered 150 protective screens to the Hospital de la Arrixaca and another 150 to the Hospital Reina Sofía in Murcia (Spain). With hope and commitment, at Nido they continue to work for a greater contribution and to be able to stop this situation. 

The BotsAndUs team put their workshop to good use, by joining a nationwide initiative  as one of the volunteers across the UK who are producing 3D printed Face Shields to help address the shortage of PPE in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Do you help to fight the coronavirus outbreak with robotics solutions? Share it with us by email or directly in RobotUnion Community.

Robotics: From the global technological revolution to Horizon Europe and Made in Europe

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The EU needs to enhance its autonomy in case they want to compete in equal conditions in the next -and digital- era. This is a fact. When examining the viability of European digital sovereignty, we must say that, although the Eurozone – world leader in several non-digital sectors – maintains the second position in the development of global digitization, it does not neglect the potential of the EU digital transformation of the internal market.

This is evidenced by EU fines on global digital giants, regulatory efforts at the GDPR level and the works on privacy of networks. However, what is really decisive for its positioning will be the orientation of the traditional industrial sectors towards a solvent digital transformation process through the improvement of the tech areas where the digital is combined with the “physical”.

Technologies such as simulations on supercomputers, 3d printing, cyber-physical systems or automatically guided vehicles (AGVs) intrafactory or Robotics, will play a key enabler role to transforming the EU “physical” industrial potential towards the digital.

In this sense, EU’s flagship initiatives for the digitization of European SMEs as RobotUnion or I4MS, have contributed with hundreds of million euros to encourage early adopters of this process of digital transformation. These initiatives are preparing the ground to allow the EU to compete with China and the United States.

Policy-makers are already speaking about EU’s own cloud platforms or European microprocessors that would reduce external digital dependence. Robotics also play a key role in the development of EU’s digital sovereignty maximizing benefits for all parts of society including the wide variety of social, economic and territorial contexts in Europe. In this sense, and in words of the EU, there are three main challenges:

  1. Although Europe has been a leading player in research and innovation across a number of industrial sectors, this position is more than ever at stake and eroding. Reliance on imported key technologies and raw materials is compromising Europe’s autonomy.
  2. Europe’s industry can adapt to planetary boundaries, through a transformation that will allow it to cope with a scarcity of resources, including energy; and to reduce its large share of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and waste.
  3. Developments in industry and in enabling technologies have the potential to enhance social inclusion. Workers, regions and societies are faced with extremely fast transformations, including the impact of digitisation and climate change.

These challenges have been transformed into EU Policy Objectives set in the Horizont Europe scheme against this background. In particular, three objectives will be pursued across an specific cluster design to cope with this challenges from the industry point of view for the period 2021-2027.

This cluster is in on Digital, Industry and Space, in synergy with other EU instruments and initiatives set in a much more wider strategy. However, the novelty here is that more the half of the budget of the Horizont Europe scheme has been granted for this cluster with the idea of Enabling technologies ensuring European leadership and autonomy:

  1. Ensuring the competitive edge and autonomy of EU industry.
  2. Fostering climate-neutral, circular and clean industry.
  3. And major contribution to inclusiveness.

Together with IA, and driven by the increased computing power, the availability of large amounts of data (the essential raw material for innovation, competitiveness and growth) and smart devices, smart robots and robotics will shape the strategic development of smart manufacturing technologies of the 21st century.

In words of the European Commission, “the way we approach AI and Robotics combined will define the world we live in between a powerful global competition”. Then a collective and decisive EU Research and innovation agenda for AI and Robotics will be instrumental in bringing its benefits to all our citizens and businesses whilst ensuring high ethical standards.

To this end, the EU will promote the adoption of principles and global standards which will ensure an ethical approach to the development and use of technologies at both EU and international level. Citizens will experience the advantages of AI in daily life, such autonomous driving to reduce citizens everyday stress and drastically reduce the number of road accidents, to truly automatic devices adapted and satisfying human and industrial needs, to support them in specific tasks, improving their working conditions, and making the technology easy to use by all, even the non-experts.

The introduction of AI and autonomous behaviour in complex, safety- and time-critical systems, such as those used in large transport networks, avionics, health or industrial applications, is a technological challenge but also a significant business opportunity for which Europe has a competitive advantage. Europe also needs to deploy a human-centric, ethical and trustworthy standards, crucial for its acceptance. The challenges in AI and Robotics will include foundational research improving hardware, algorithms, achieving explainable AI (transparent decision making), adaptive learning, and improving smart, collaborative, safe and efficient robots and autonomous systems, as well as applied research to demonstrate progress for applications needs. Common AI platforms and reinforced collaboration among researchers are expected to combat fragmentation.

Robotics is here to stay and companies, as well as citizens, must be ready for the transformation not only due to economic and social benefit, but for the sake of Europe values and autonomy in the nearest future.

Written by Juan Antonio Pavón for RobotUnion. 


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Photo by JAFAR AHMED on Unsplash

Will at some point surgeries be fully automated and surgeons and assistant health practitioners be obsolete? Not yet, but there is no doubt about how crucial to modern surgery are these state-of-the-art micromanipulator robots that have changed the way we see medical operations.

A group of surgeons belonging to the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington D.C. have developed a semi-autonomous surgical robot in order to perform open surgeries. The robot is specialised in sewing soft tissue after surgery.

The robot was tested on pigs and it sew together fragments of bowels.  It was supervised to make sure that it would follow some indicative fluorescent markers, but no corrections were needed at the end.

Dr. Peter Kim mentioned that clearly sewing tissue is a process that that machine can do better. Handling soft tissue is considered the most difficult aspect of this type of surgery as there is a greater possibility for the human “shaky” hand to slip. So, removing the shaky human element through this technology can lead to reduced complications of soft tissue surgeries in the future.

While soft tissue surgeries need a high level of precision, there are others that are practically impossible for the human hand.

Bill Beaver, 70, was gradually losing his right eye eyesight until he regained hope thanks to a novel robotic device developed by a team of researchers at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. Specialised personnel controlled a robotic surgeon via a joystick, to remove a membrane one-hundredth of a millimeter thick situated in the retina of the eye of the patient that was responsible for his sight loss.

The operation took place with the use of a needle that was inserted inside his eye, attached to the robot. This delicate operation could be conducted successfully due to the ability of the robot to filter out the hand tremors of the doctors´ hands. The patient was able to see clearly again after a few days. It is like a “fairy tale” he commented, as he was once again able to enjoy reading and admiring art pieces.

Cyber Surgery is one of the scaleups being accelerated by RobotUnion. They focus on robotic assistants for high-precision operations specialised in spine surgery. The company is formed by a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, patients, and engineers that collaborate and explore the limits of knowledge to get the best technological and accurate solutions for their customers.

The scaleup is a spin-off of Egile Corporation XXI. All its members share the same enthusiasm and objective of optimising robotic surgery.  Visit their website to explore their project on innovative surgery or get in touch with them if you wish to collaborate.


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