Lately, many new players have been entering the surgical robotics space, which traditionally has been dominated by Intuitive Surgical. The attractiveness of this market is growing owing to increasing demand for minimally invasive surgeries in developed and emerging economies. As more clinical evidence becomes available showing the efficacy of robotic surgeries, there will be greater adoption of such procedures around the globe. Therefore, with this trend, over the past couple of years, new players have started entering the robotic surgery space.

For example, TransEnterix has recently commercialized its TELELAP ALF-X system in Europe. It is priced much lower than Intuitive Surgical’s system because it uses reusable instruments and accessories that lower per-procedure costs. At present, TransEnterix is the only competitor aside from Intuitive Surgical that has launched surgical robotic systems in Europe. Another company, Auris Surgical Robotic, a startup based in California, has received FDA approval in June this year for its robotic bronchoscope. It is also worth noting that earlier this year, the company also announced its merger with Hansen Medical. It is believed that after the commercialization of this product in the US, the number of bronchoscope procedures being carried out by the da Vinci will decline.

Many other players are planning to enter the market. For example, TITAN medical is set to launch its SPORT surgical system in 2017 in the US and Europe. Due to the huge investment involved in designing and developing surgical robots, partnerships in this space have also been commonly seen. For example, in December 2015, Johnson & Johnson and Verily Life Sciences partnered together to form Verb Surgical, an articulated surgical robotic device company. Verb Surgical is currently developing surgical robotic platforms in collaboration with leading surgeons across the world. Even Medtronic, through its partner Mazor Robotics, has announced that it will be entering the surgical robot market soon with the launch of a surgical robotic device by 2018 in the US and Europe. As per the latest news, Zimmer Biomet, an orthopedic giant, has now forayed into the surgical robotics space with acquisition of France-based Medtech, which sells surgical robots. Medtech has two robotic devices for spinal and brain surgery, both of which received FDA and CE approvals in 2014 and 2009 respectively. Cambridge Medical Robotics has also recently received series A funding of around $20.3 million for the development and commercialisation of surgical robots in the future. The company has already conducted successful clinical trials in June 2016.

With the increasing number of players competing in the surgical robotics space, it will be interesting to note the changing competitive strategy of Intuitive Surgical. It is important for new players to realise that their new products will not be able to make a large difference in a short span of time because Intuitive is in a strong position from a brand and monetary perspective. If we look at the current performance of Intuitive Surgical, its earnings have been outstanding due to the 70% contribution of recurring revenues; this is indicative of a healthy corporate financial situation. As the company witnesses increasing sales and recurring revenues, it will also invest more in R&D, thus being able to flood the market with wide variety of options for surgeons to choose from. Such economies of scope and scale will be difficult for newcomers to imitate. Having said that, it is now becoming clear to medtech players that in order to compete in such high barrier market, forming strategic partnerships is key to success and thus it is expected that we will see more news along this line in the future!

Follow Isha Suman on Twitter at @suman_ishaDRG for additional medtech market insights.

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