This paper, a “Q&A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal, aims to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry engineer-turned entrepreneur regarding the evolution, commercialization and challenges of bringing a technological invention to market.
The interviewee is Dr Esben H. Ostergaard, inventor, co-founder and chief technology officer of Universal Robots. From building his first robot to solve a local industrial problem at the age of four, to building the world’s first collaborative robot company, Dr Ostergaard shares his lifelong ventures as a robot scientist, inventor and entrepreneur.
Dr Ostergaard received degrees in computer science, physics and multimedia at Aarhus University in Denmark, and a PhD in robotics from the University of Southern Denmark. While at Aarhus, Dr Ostergaard pursued his hobby of robot football, and in 1998, his team STATIC became the world champion of the Federation of International Robot-soccer Association (FIRA). Dr Ostergaard held research positions at the University of Southern California (USC) Robotics Labs and at the Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba/Tokyo. During the years 2001-2005 as a researcher and assistant professor in robotics and user interfaces at University of Southern Denmark, he created the foundation for a reinvention of the industrial robot. This led him to found Universal Robots in 2005 with two of his research colleagues.
From a young child who played with LEGOs until he got a Commodore 64, Dr Ostergaard has always been interested in robotics. His unique multidisciplinary education and multicultural research experiences helped him to pioneer a new multi-axis, lightweight industrial robot and launch the successful company, Universal Robots, which has grown from its three co-founders to nearly 150 employees, with more than 4,000 collaborative robot applications installed in over 50 countries worldwide. Dr Ostergaard has over 30 patents and has received many awards, including the 2012 IEEE-IFR Invention and Entrepreneurship Award (IERA), the 2013 Japanese Institute Good Design Award, the 2013 Robotics Business Review Game Changer Award and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 in Region Funen.
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