In the pharma industry, one of the main applications of smart robots is robotic surgical systems. This involves the design, construction, operation and application of robots in pharma research, development, and production.
Going forward, robots can be incorporated into the healthcare system to deal with the challenges of increasing expenses, regulatory pressure, changing care and business models, and demand patterns due to ageing populations.
Robotics in pharma
GlobalData defines a robot as a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions (typically programmed by a computer) automatically and repeatedly.
Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots.
Robots have become progressively cheaper, smarter, more flexible and easier to train. This makes it easier for robots to infiltrate new industries and spawn new use cases at scale, including pharma.
With compounding advances in technology, robots are being redefined as physically embodied artificial intelligence (AI) agents. Pharmaceutical Technology robotics dashboards bring you all the data and information on robotics in Pharma.
Robotics and smart pharma
The Covid-19 pandemic has given businesses an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate and implement technology-fuelled changes to the way they operate, even if those changes had already begun to be implemented prior to the pandemic.
For pharmaceutical companies, the pandemic forced many to rethink and readjust their drug development process, manufacturing, supply chains, marketing strategies, and end-customer reach.
Trends in robotics use in pharma
While pharmaceutical companies mainly relied on technologies before the pandemic to enhance internal processes, now digital technologies are becoming necessary to ensure business continuity and gain a competitive edge.
The market for growth in pharmaceutical industry robotics companies has been estimated as growing to $269.4m by 2028. This is partly due to the growth in robotics use in pharma for manufacturing, as well as the cost savings it delivers.
Of particular significance is the use of robotics in clinical trials, along with drug discovery and development.
Robotics in pharma landscape
Exoskeletons, industrial robots, and consumer robots will be the fastest-growing robotics segments between 2020 and 2030. Exoskeletons are expected to grow at a 49% CAGR between 2020 and 2030, albeit from a low base (it generated revenues of just $200m in 2020).
Consumer robots also start from a low base, with sales of automated home robots largely confined to floor cleaning devices. However, as prices decline and efficiency increases, more consumers will be tempted to adopt a broader range of domestic robots.
Privacy concerns and security risks have the potential to cap that growth. However, the industry is likely to continue minimising those risks and addressing consumer concerns, which increases its chances of fulfilling its growth potential.
Market forecasts for pharmaceutical robotic industry companies
According to GlobalData forecasts, the robotics industry was worth $45.3bn in 2020. By 2030, it will have grown at a CAGR of 29% to $568bn. Annual growth rates will peak at 37% in 2024.
Sales of industrial robots hit $14.6bn in 2020, equivalent to 32% of the total robotics market. By 2030, this segment will be worth $352bn, having grown at a CAGR of 38% between 2020 and 2030.
At $30.7bn in 2020, the service robot market was larger than the industrial robots sector. However, the industrial robots market will grow faster over the next decade. The robotics industry will grow at a CAGR of 29% between 2020 and 2030.
Pharma hiring growth in robotics
The proportion of pharmaceutical companies hiring for robotics-related positions rose in April 2022 compared with the equivalent month last year, with 21.8% of the companies included in our analysis recruiting for at least one such position.
This latest figure was higher than the 20.2% of companies who were hiring for robotics-related jobs a year ago, but a decrease compared to the figure of 22.6% in March 2022.
Examples of robotic use in pharma
Depending on the application, level of sophistication, and reliability requirements, robotics generally involves several levels of control and processing.
This includes onboard hardware and software, and increasingly, cloud processing and the pooling of knowledge from multiple robots.
Benefits of pharmaceutical industry robotics companies include a reduction in production downtime, reduced labour force change, improved health and safety, enhanced waste management, optimised space utilisation, and augmented production flexibility.
Robotics in the pharma production setting
Robots also need to be able to sense their surroundings. Depending on the application, they may also need sensors sensitive to touch, heat, light, vibration, sound, and even certain chemicals.
Many of these sensors will only be available from specialist manufacturers, with their own R&D priorities and strategic goals.
Mechanical components are another important element of a robot. They need to be precise, reliable and robust, as well as consume as little power as possible.
In many cases, motors and other mechanical components also need to act as sensors, providing feedback to the robot’s processing system, to allow it to move with more consistency and accuracy.
Companies such as Maxon, Keyence, Nabtesco, Omron, Harmonic Drive, Nachi-Fujikoshi, and Nippon Ceramic are important suppliers in the wider robotics industry.
In the following sections, we will look more closely at each segment of the value chain.