“Commercially we have to be here to place our systems”

September 2021

America’s Intuitive Surgical is one of the world’s leading robot-assisted surgery innovators and a NASDAQ-listed company. Its Da Vinci systems are used in many countries around the globe, and it’s expanding internationally, thanks in part to its German subsidiary. We asked Intuitive Surgical Germany Vice-President and General Manager Dirk Barten why Germany is just what the doctor ordered for his company.

Why was it important for Intuitive Surgical to be on the ground in Germany?

First of all, we find the innovators here in the German market, which helped us from the first moment on to develop the product as it is today. Some of the first procedures in prostatectomy, the radical removal of the prostate, took place in Frankfurt here in Germany in ’99. So our success is based in Germany. That’s the historical and clinical reason. On the other side, we have here the third-largest health economy we can address behind the United States and Japan, so we have to be here. The dynamic is very strong in the German market. Commercially we have to be here to place our systems. And the third aspect is that we find here the technical talents, the optical and micro-mechanic talents, to facilitate the production of our high-precision products. So we have a production plant here in Germany as well.

How is your business doing in Europe and Germany?

We are expanding globally. We now have around 6000 of these da Vinci systems placed throughout the world, 1000 of them here in Europe, and the dynamic is very strong. The German market has understood the value of these technologies, users are confirming that value, and even politicians have understood the value with the Hospital Future Fund, which had been initiated in 2020 during the pandemic. So hospitals are able to acquire those systems today, and we see a strong dynamic.

Why did you locate in the southwestern German city of Freiburg?

Historically many medtech companies are located in the southwest of Germany. So we find the right resources to enable our growth. On the other side, from the early 2000s, we have found our supply base there. In the meantime we have our own production. But this is why we are located in the southwest of Germany.

How are relations with your parent company in the United States?

We’re one part of the European business of our parent company, which is located in California in Silicon Valley. This is where the key innovation took place at the end of the ‘90s. But we’ve been present here in the German market since the early 2000s. We’ve been growing, first slowly, and in the last five years with a very strong dynamic. But the relation is healthy, full of trust and historically grounded.

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