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The robot surgeon moves silently, efficiently, and with pinpoint precision, delicately operating on a patient who will wake to smaller incisions, less blood loss, less chance of infection, and a shorter recovery period.
This futuristic scene – almost unimaginable just a few years ago – has become a reality in thousands of operating theatres worldwide as robotics transforms the way we live as well as work, from robot surgeons to self-driving cars to factory ‘cobots’.
Robot surgery is just one technological evolution AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) has been tracking closely since 2015 with its global Robotech strategy which focuses on healthcare along with industrial automation, transportation, and technology enablers.
“The market for robotic surgery is large and growing,” said Tom Riley, lead manager of the strategy, who expects the field to expand from mostly hernia and colorectal procedures in the US to general surgery worldwide.
“There are numerous benefits of robotic surgery for patients, including reduced scarring from smaller incisions, lower infection rates due to cleaner environments, and potentially greater procedural precision from robots compared to traditional human surgery,” Riley explained.
Surgery aside, AXA IM is cognisant of the technology sector’s potential for capturing data in healthcare and the accompanying benefits.
“The increasing availability and connectivity of data is helping facilitate continuous remote monitoring of patients’ conditions, to detect changes and escalate concerns,” he added.
“This data could result in the earlier identification of patient ailments, helping deliver treatment sooner and reducing conditions’ severity.”
The emergence of robot surgeons reflects the robust health of the robotics sector as its technology increasingly influences more aspects of our daily lives. According to current estimations, the global robotics market is expected to grow by 10-15% a year until 20251.
To capture this growth, AXA IM’s investment strategy year-to-date has been to maintain a prudent, broad-spectrum approach.
“It is our belief that investing in a broad range of robotics and automation opportunities provides a bigger universe from which to do our stock selection and provides more balance to an overall portfolio,” Riley said.
“With our long-term investment approach, we typically don’t make significant shifts in the portfolio’s allocations, either sectorally or geographically. However, we do seek to take profits in areas that we see as being more expensive, rotating into areas where we see more value.”
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, Riley believes the potential for industrial and manufacturing capex in the US could provide a supportive backdrop for the robotics sector in the months ahead.
“More broadly, we expect innovation to continue at a rapid pace, with continued improvements in connectivity and semiconductors that are crucial components of the robotics and automation ecosystem,” he said. “Further developments in software and areas such as artificial intelligence and big data analysis are also likely to broaden the applications of automated systems.”
There also remains vast potential in emerging markets where whole working populations are shifting away from low-paid jobs. China, for instance, is a particularly promising landscape as its robot density – the number of robots per 10,000 workers – is still less than 15% of that of South Korea, the leading robotic country1.
“Continued innovation in technology will see collaborative robots – ‘cobots’ – join the factory floor, working alongside humans to complement human skill gaps,” Riley said.
In addition, the auto industry has enormous room for growth as it edges towards the challenging technology of self-driving cars.
“We believe that while fully functioning autonomous vehicles remain some way off from a technological and regulatory point of view, auto manufacturers will move ever closer toward adopting these technologies,” he added.
“We believe technological rollout will continue to be incremental, with increased semiconductor content year-on-year, which should be supportive for our auto component suppliers.”
At a time of geopolitical turmoil and global economic malaise, the prognosis for the robotics sector appears exceptionally healthy as its influence and positive benefits extend to more areas of our everyday lives.
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Sources: AXA IM as at November 2018
1 IFR, World Robotics (2015).
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This is a sponsored article from AXA Investment Managers.