Precision Robotics, a company spun out from Imperial College London, says it expects to establish itself as a key player in mainland China’s vast market for surgical-robotics systems by leveraging its research centre in the Hong Kong Science Park.
“Hong Kong is the gateway to the Greater China market,” said Benny Lo, CEO of Precision Robotics Hong Kong. “It is very important for the company. We can see that this is probably the potential growth [path] in our industry in terms of surgical-robotics technologies.”
Precision Robotics is a London-based start-up founded in 2017 by Chinese scientist Yang Guangzhong, who was the founding director of the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College London.
Five years ago, the company decided to set up a research and development (R&D) centre in the Hong Kong Science Park, which is run by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP).
In addition to boosting R&D capacity, the company expects the Hong Kong operation to play a role in setting up a manufacturing pipeline and establishing distribution channels for the China and Asia markets, according to Lo, who has nearly two decades of experience as a researcher and academic at Imperial College.
HKSTP offered research and lab facilities and granted funding to the centre, Lo said. The company has more than 40 staff members in Hong Kong, with the majority in R&D.
Precision Robotics develops novel intelligent robotic systems for advanced laparoscopic surgery, featuring its articulated camera system, known as Sirius Endoscope System.
Laparoscopic surgery allows surgeons to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis using instruments that pass through a few small holes or even a single hole, rather than requiring large incisions.
In December last year, the product received 510k clearance by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which means it is proven to be safe and effective for its intended use and has attained world-class quality standards.
The company is now in the process of applying for approval in China and is considering establishing a manufacturing base in Tseung Kwan O, offered by the HKSTP, or setting up a base in a mainland Chinese city.
According to GlobalData’s analysis, the market for surgical robotics systems and accessories is expected to reach US$30.7 billion globally by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 10 per cent from 2022 to 2030.
China’s medical-robot sector is still in its infancy, even though the country’s robotics industry has been developing swiftly, with a projected market value of US$17.4 billion in 2022, according to a report released by the Chinese Institute of Electronics during Beijing’s World Robot Conference in August last year.
Lo said high accommodation costs and a shortage of talent are still shortcomings for Hong Kong if it wants to be a true international technology hub.
However, the commonly held belief that university academics in Hong Kong get less encouragement than their international peers to become entrepreneurs is not correct, he said.
“That is not what I see,” said Lo, adding that an intern in his company started running a company herself after getting funding from the HKSTP. “I wish I had this kind of opportunity when I was in the UK.”