5 minutes with … Dr. Simon Haddadin, CEO of Franka Emika GmbH

Science and technology are ultimately driving the world´s progress. Robots are coming from the pages of science fiction literature into the real world, aiming to assist humanity. Franka Emika GmbH is working on the design, development, and commercialization of such technologies. Franka Emikas Panda is the first fully Industrie 4.0 capable robot system on the market. The Founders of Franka Emika received the German President's Award for Innovation in Science and Technology, (Deutscher Zukunftspreis) for its research and innovation in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence in 2017.

The company’s first robotic arm is called Panda. Why did you choose this name in particular? How does it differ from other robots?

Well, we heard about the crisis with pandas around the world was driving to extinction and decided to support them by introducing a new hard-working and proactive member into the family (laughing). In reality, we had a tradition of naming our running projects with different breeds of bears, like Grizzly, Panda and so on. Once we were about to release the robot for sale, we thought that maybe the internal name should stay, as our focus is on the electronics market, 80% of which is in China where Pandas come from. The black and white furry animal is also currently trending all over the internet and is a favourite of all users, so it felt like all parts fell into place, as our power-tool is made for everyone and accessible to all.

Who is interested in your robots? Who enquiring about the technology and why?

Currently, our main target groups are European small and medium sized businesses in industrial manufacturing, as well as large electronics manufacturing companies. Both target groups are poorly automated, due to the enormous costs of classical automation. However, the robot capabilities extent far beyond the tasks and qualifications of the above mentioned. Therefore, our current user base is highly diverse including worldwide researchers, service and health care providers, as well as almost all branches of industrial manufacturing. Consequently, Panda had become the fastest selling industrial robotic system with around 2.000 robots shipped within the first year.

Panda is operated via Apps which sounds very innovative! What are the advantages of that?

Panda is the first robotic system that can be used via Apps like a smartphone. It’s easy to use and one can learn to operate it within minutes, without any previous programming or robotics skills, regardless of age or experience.  Apps can be combined to solve complex tasks using any standard laptop or tablet. From there, the user can even share apps or tasks via Franka World and apply them to any number of robots independent of their physical location enabling unprecedented scalability.

Anna Sharova, Online Sales Manager at Franka Emika, summarizes the most important points of the success story in an interview.

It’s a pretty long way from space (The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) where Franka Emika’s team started their research) to supporting senior citizens – your goal for the upcoming years. Where is the journey taking us, which areas are going to be revolutionised by the use of robotics in future?

In the future we would like to whiteness how robots are becoming an inseparable part of human lives in all social dimensions – from hospitals and schools to factory plants and even Space. We believe that robots will have a similar success story as personal computers, internet and smart devices combined, as robots are the connection between the digital and the physical world.

In terms of projects for senior citizens, the overall purpose is to provide technological assistance to senior citizens and people with physical limitations to allow them to stay in the comfort of their own homes. This still scientific area was named Geriatronics. Robots will become peoples´ companions, helping with basic assignments, such as making food, tidying up, doing dishes, and even playing a game of chess. They will monitor the owner´s health indicators, provide medical assistance and call doctors when owner´s health is at risk.

Prof. Sami Haddadin is part of your team of founders. He holds the Professorship for Robotics and System Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich and is in the process of developing a global elite centre for robotics in Bavaria. He even turned down an appointment as professor at Stanford University for this. Why does Bavaria specifically have what it takes to establish itself as an international hot spot for robotics?

In my opinion Bavaria and specifically Munich is already the international hot spot in robotics. However, one should never rest on what they achieved in the past, but focus on what to develop in the future. Here the commitment by the Bavarian State to invest in an integrated research center the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at the Technical University Munich is a great step into the right direction and can serve as a sustainable approach in innovation in the field of robotics.

Startup ecosystem is blossoming in the region as well - most projects are highly ambitious, with dedicated teams that peruse the goals and as a result evolve into strong successful companies that dominate the market share later on. State is supporting startups via numerous programs and grants; there is also a network of incubators and accelerators, which host promising entrepreneurs. Hence, Bavaria offers a unique, historic combination of brilliant tech minds, state support and educational facilities. Bavaria is open to cutting edge innovation and robotics definitely is one of the most innovative science fields one can imagine, therefore for us it’s the place to be!

Your head office is situated in Munich. In your opinion, what makes Bavaria particularly attractive for employees and what is your favourite place?

Munich is the most beautiful city in the world. My favourite place is my neighbourhood in Schwabing. I love to stroll through the streets, eat good food, talk with my neighbours. Munich is a million’s village.

As mentioned, it is historically a centre for highly skilled professionals. We, as a team, enjoy Bavarian culture, we like going to Beer gardens in the summer with the whole company and skiing in the Alps in the winter, enjoying traditional festivals and hiking the beautiful mountains. One can say that Bavaria, with all its charm is contributing to our team building activities!   

 

In my opinion Bavaria and specifically Munich is already the international hot spot in robotics. However, one should never rest on what they achieved in the past, but focus on what to develop in the future. Here the commitment by the Bavarian State to invest in an integrated research center the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at the Technical University Munich is a great step into the right direction and can serve as a sustainable approach in innovation in the field of robotics.

In addition, Franka Emika's intelligent robot was one of the supporting actors in our start-up video. Who can spot it?

Franka Emika GmbH

In Bavaria since:

2016

Department represented in Bavaria:

Head Office

Branch:

Robotics

Headquarters:

Munich

More about:

www.franka.de