The emergence of care robotics – A patent and publication analysis

Care robots are a means to support elderly people affected by physical or mental handicaps to remain as autonomous as possible or regain already lost autonomy (e.g. running stairs). They also support care-takers when working with handicapped. We review the emergence of care robotics technology and particularly offer answers to two research questions: Which organizations and individuals in which countries have been and are active in research and development? How has research and development emerged with regard to activity focus, intensity levels and cooperation?

The analysis rests on the PATSTAT patent and ISI Web of Science publication data. Bibliographic and network analyses are conducted on country, organization (i.e. universities and firms) and individual levels. We find that care robotics research and development activities constantly increased since the late 1970s. Today Japanese universities and firms are the most active players, while in early stages US and European organizations pioneered care robotics research. Starting from six disjunctive small networks, several highly interconnected care robotics research networks evolved. However, most cooperation clusters are still found within the same country. Only few international hubs emerged. Among them two arose around Japanese organizations (ATR, AIST) and Carnegie Mellon University, US.

Published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2015, Vol. 92 (March), pp. 115-131.