Medical Robotics for Contagious Diseases Challenge 2020

In 2020 the UK-RAS announced their inaugural Medical Robotics Challenge for Contagious Diseases Challenge.

The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in late 2019 sparked a global health crisis and the robotics research and innovation communities has formed an integral part of our response.

Across the world, robots and drones are being repurposed and deployed as part of the COVID-19 response. There are robots disinfecting hospitals; automated systems supporting the testing of millions of people quickly and reliably; robots undertaking infection control and operating on patients; and robotic platforms delivering medical supplies and food to the most vulnerable. In the case of clinical care, areas of specific importance include disease prevention, diagnosis and screening, and patient care and disease management.

Winner’s Announced

The winners in each category were unveiled at a virtual award ceremony held in February 2021, with each winning team receiving prize money of £5000 generously donated by The Wellcome Trust and Intuitive Surgical.

The winners were decided, from a shortlist of 17 exceptional submissions, by a prestigious judging panel, including Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, Co-Director of IGHI, Professor of Surgery at Imperial College London, UK; Simon Di Maio, Director, Research at Intuitive Surgical, USA; Prof. Russell H. Taylor, John C. Malone Professor at John’s Hopkins University, USA; and Dr. Thomas Neff, Manager Software Medical Robotics at KUKA Deutschland GmbH, De.

Best Application

‘UVC-PURGE: A Semi-autonomous Virus Disinfection Robot’ by the team at Military Institute of Science & Technology (MIST).

Runner Up: ‘Teleoperated wheelchair with isolation hood’ by the team at Amrita Viswa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University).

Best Innovation

‘Telerobotics for Remote Control of Medical Equipment in Contagious Environments’ by the team at Johns Hopkins University.

Runner Up: ‘Towards Affordable Soft Robotic Bronchoscopy’ by the team at Imperial College London and Institut Teknologi Bandung.

Best Design

‘An Intelligent Robotic System for Automated Precision Disinfection in Public Spaces’ by the team at Leeds University.

Runner Up: ‘A master-slave robotic system for both endotracheal intubation and bronchoscopy for the treatment of COVID-19’ by the team at Tianjin University.

“The engagement of the world’s leading robotics researchers with this Challenge has been nothing short of incredible, and the quality of the entries we received really underscore the vital contribution that is being made by robotics platforms during this pandemic in delivering solutions for the global community. The entire UK-RAS team and our superb judging panel offer our congratulations to the winners, runners-up, and all the teams who took part in this unique competition, which is going to provide an important launchpad for pandemic response innovations as we look beyond the immediate crisis to addressing future public health challenges.”

Professor Robert Richardson, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network

Shortlisted Entries

This unique challenge attracted 21 entries from 13 countries – Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, Uganda, UK and USA.

Judging Panel

Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham

Co-Director of IGHI, Professor of Surgery

Imperial College London, UK

Simon Di Maio

Director, Research

Intuitive Surgical, USA

Prof. Russell H. Taylor

John C. Malone Professor

John’s Hopkins University, USA

Dr. Thomas Neff

Manager Software Medical Robotics

KUKA Deutschland  GmbH, De


Does the competition have a particular focus, such as testing, sterilisation or awareness?

There is no special focus – we are looking for any innovation that helps to fight the virus or lessen its impact.

Will entries be judged primarily on execution or innovation?

Entries will be judged on innovation, relevant clinical application, and good engineering practice.

Does the entry have to be an entirely new system, or will adaptations of existing systems be accepted? 

There should be some newly developed aspect to your entry, but it can be based on an existing idea.

Are entries expected to be final working prototypes, or would designs and plans be accepted?

A working prototype is preferable, however given that the Covid-19 outbreak may make construction of a prototype impossible, the judging panel will consider designs and plans.

Do entrants have to be associated with an academic organisation to enter?

Yes. We are happy to accept entries from industry, however these must be in partnership with an academic institution. We ask that the academic partner makes the application to enter.

Can international teams apply?

Yes. We welcome entries from research groups around the world.

Please contact us to discuss any further questions or issues you may have.


No challenges found.

Medical Robotics for Contagious Diseases Challenge 2020

Manufacturing Robotics Challenge

UK Festival of Robotics

17th – 23rd June 2023