The healthcare industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by telemedicine, real-time diagnostics, smart hospitals and access to digital therapies, as well as the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), robotics and data management practices. In the last three years alone, there have been over 106,000 patents filed and granted in the healthcare industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics in Healthcare: Microfluidic devices. Buy the report here.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

200+ innovations will shape the healthcare industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the healthcare industry using innovation intensity models built on over 443,000 patents, there are 200+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, microfluidic devices, static computer-aided implant surgery (s-CAIS), and digital pathology guided robotic surgery are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Interactive exercise system, computer-aided dental prostheses, and automated genetic screening are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is the automated drug dispensing systems, which is now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the healthcare industry

Microfluidic devices is a key innovation area in robotics

Microfluidic devices are networks of micro-channels and chambers used to control and manipulate the flow of fluids and gases into the chambers. These devices have replaced conventional lab testing equipment that required running multiple experiments that is associated with higher reagent volume consumption and higher reaction time.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established healthcare companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of microfluidic devices.

Key players in microfluidic devices – a disruptive innovation in the healthcare industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to microfluidic devices

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories 366 Unlock company profile
Labrador Diagnostics 77 Unlock company profile
Abbott Laboratories 61 Unlock company profile
OPKO Health 40 Unlock company profile
Arctic Partners 25 Unlock company profile
Genus 20 Unlock company profile
Techno Medica 20 Unlock company profile
C. H. Boehringer Sohn 16 Unlock company profile
Danaher 15 Unlock company profile
Thermo Fisher Scientific 15 Unlock company profile
DNAnudge 13 Unlock company profile
Arctic Partners 13 Unlock company profile
ChipCare 12 Unlock company profile
Cell ID 11 Unlock company profile
Hewlett Packard Enterprise 9 Unlock company profile
Leavitt Medical 8 Unlock company profile
Sanwa BioTech 7 Unlock company profile
Visby Medical 7 Unlock company profile
Biological Dynamics 7 Unlock company profile
Sakura Global Holding 7 Unlock company profile
Takayoshi 6 Unlock company profile
Toshiba 6 Unlock company profile
Alere Scarborough 6 Unlock company profile
CytoVale 5 Unlock company profile
HP 5 Unlock company profile
Menarini Diagnosticos 5 Unlock company profile
Essenlix 5 Unlock company profile
Fujifilm Holdings 5 Unlock company profile
Johnson & Johnson 5 Unlock company profile
Nippon Chemi-Con 5 Unlock company profile
Fio 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories is one of the leading patent filers in the field of microfluidic devices. Some other key patent filers in the field include Labrador Diagnostics and Abbott Laboratories.

In terms of application diversity, Genus leads the pack, followed by Toshiba and Techno Medica. By means of geographic reach, OPKO Health holds the top position, followed by Arctic Partners and Sakura Global in the second and third spots, respectively.

Microfluidic devices have a wide range of applications, including nanoparticle preparation, drug delivery, cell culture and diagnosis. Further technological advancements would allow replacing human laboratory staff with robots for performing tests using microfluidic devices that would reduce the burden on hospital staff along with providing accurate and fast results.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the healthcare industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Healthcare.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.