To foster the entrepreneurial spirit and to provide a platform to encourage researchers and practitioners to transition ideas and prototypes to commercializable products, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society's Industrial Activities Board invited the robotics and automation community to participate in an Entrepreneurship Forum and Start-up Competition (EFSC) at the 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS'15) held in Hamburg, Germany on 1 October 2015. The event was intended to inspire, educate, enable, and empower researchers, students, young professionals, and anyone else who has the 'start-up bug' in starting companies of their own but is not sure of how to go about it.
After a rigorous review process, 12 finalists were selected to make their final 'pitches' in Hamburg. In an interim Coaching stage, the finalists were paired with an expert to fine-tune their presentation and ideas to present at the Finals, where they made a 5 min. presentation (followed by a 5 min. Q&A session) to a distinguished judging panel of from the industry, and academia. The presentations were judged based on the following seven criteria: business idea, customer benefit, competitive advantage, market analysis, management, traction, and financial concept.
The judges were IEEE and RAS Member Dominik Boesl (Corporate Innovation Manager, KUKA AG, Germany), Francois Boucher (Chief Business Development Officer, Kinova, Canada)IEEE and RAS Member Ryan Gariepy (CTO, Clearpath Robotics, Canada), IEEE and RAS Member Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos (Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Univ. of Minnesota, USA), Slawomir Sander (Bosch Robotics, Germany), IEEE and RAS Member Alin Albu-Schaeffer (Head of the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, DLR, Germany), and IEEE and RAS member Nicola Tomatis (CEO, Bluebotics, Switzerland).
The top 3 finishers of the first IEEE RAS Start-up Competition were:
IEEE and RAS Student Member Alvin Chen, from VascuLogic whose business idea was a portable, image-guided medical robot that improves the accuracy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of venipuncture by drawing blood and performing intravenous procedures in an automated fashion.
IEEE and RAS Member Kenji Suzuki, from PLIMES Ltd. whose business idea was social problem solving by dramatically enhancing Quality of Life of people with lower body paralysis or elderly people through the use of passive exoskeletons with smart mechatronics in personal mobility.
Francesco Maria Petrini and Stanisa Raspopovic from SensArs Neuroprosthetics Sàrl whose business idea was SENSY, a unique device enabling amputees don't have feelings from their prosthesis to feel skin softness or a stone trampled during walking.
The three winners took home US$15,000, US$10,000, and US$5,000, respectively. All finalists were provided travel support of up to US$1250. Financial sponsorship provided by IEEE-RAS, IEEE, and KUKA is gratefully acknowledged.
More information on the Start-up Competition, the 12 finalists and their business ideas are available from
posted 14 October 2015