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Mar 17, 2023 D'vorah Graeser

From Factories to Thrills: Unleashing the Power of Kuka's IP

people riding a robotic amusement park ride

IP is innovative and creative - but in order to be sustainable, it also has to be profitable. Great IP in a crowded market won't reach its full potential, because of excess competition.

The most obvious market for IP isn't always the best - for you or your licensing partner. 

So how can you extend your IP to new markets? Invention extensions!

Take the case of Kuka AG of Augsburg, Germany, a well-known manufacturer of industrial robots. But industrial robots - used on factory floors for moving heavy objects - are an established and competitive market.

Kuka's IP however wasn't just about moving heavy objects on factory floors. It was really about moving anything heavy with a high degree of control and precision. 

What else needs to be moved with a high degree of control and precision? People on amusement rides!

Kuka's first application of their IP to this new field came in 2010, with the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando. 

This ride gives you the feeling of flying, just like your favorite Quidditch players. The new business provided Kuka (link below) with a new source of revenue and profits.


Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (link below) is not a roller coaster but instead relies on the movement of robotic arms, timed to match the scenery being shown to the rider. It has some elements of simulator rides, such as The Simpsons Ride (full disclosure: the author of this piece went on that ride – the scenery was the key). However, it also requires meticulous control of the rider’s line of sight. In other words, it requires a degree of precision that the Kuka’s robotic arms were capable of delivering.

Kuka’s arm (link below) is attached to a base that follows a busbar track. The arm looks like the automated processor robots in automotive manufacturing plants (many of Kuka's products have industrial uses). It picks up four-person ride carts and moves it along the line; the illusion of flying is supported by the range of motion of the arm. This range of motion swivels the riders as needed to sustain the illusion.


What Are Invention Extensions?

Kuka employed a well-known - but difficult to successfully implement - technique: invention extension, also known as tech extension. Kuka extended its technology to a new business area and market, adapting the technology itself as it did so. It meant that Kuka could take advantage of its expertise in industrial robot arms to create an entirely new line of business.

For TTOs, the attraction is clear. Why limit your potential licensees to a single application of your university’s research projects when you can leverage each innovation disclosure to multiple tech areas? This gives you various opportunities to find the right partner for your project for an exclusive license. And for non-exclusive licenses, this gives you different ways to license your project. You have a much higher deal potential for each project, and your university can make more money.

Of course, invention extensions aren’t easy, or else everyone would be doing them. Yet some universities - and some companies - have been successful. How did they do it?

Get our report on extending your IP to learn more!


Create IP extensions

So how can you quickly create IP extensions for your research project? We recommend the following steps:

  1. Strip the technology down to its core.
  2. Look for other products using that core.
  3. Identify the need that the core satisfies for each product.
  4. Analyze the market corresponding to that need.



Strip The Technology Down to Its Core

You need to start by finding the essence of your research project. This essence is not the proposed application of the technology or even what the published paper says. This essence is the most minimal way to summarize the technology. 

Want to know how Kuka did it? Get our free report on invention extensions



Look For Other Products Using That Core

Kuka wanted to find a new market - one that was less competitive than industrial robots. It searched for other markets that also involved moving heavy items with precision.

Get our free report on invention extensions to find out how - even without fancy tools


Identify The Need That the Core Satisfies for Each Product

We need to identify the satisfied need per industry. According to UMI (link below), “Seventy percent (70%) of innovation failures are due to a lack of market needs”

Find out how to identify the need for your new market quickly and easily.


Analyze The Market Corresponding to That Need

Market analysis depends on the market - but also on geographic and other factors. 

Get our full report on invention extensions to get started.

Can you make the invention extension leap?

Not all universities systematically search for opportunities to apply their technology outside of their core markets. When you extend your technology to a new business area and market, potential profits and growth can be yours, too.

Get our full report to learn more about our tips, tricks, and techniques for invention extension.




Photo by Chela B. on Unsplash

Danneels, E., & Frattini, F. (2018, March 6). Finding Applications for Technologies Beyond the Core Business. MIT Sloan Management Review. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from

Mumpower, D. (2019, August 5). Behind the Ride: 5 Mind-Bending Tricks Employed by Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Theme Park Tourist. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from

Weil, A. (2020, September 9). 3 companies that found new application fields for their technology. UMI. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2022, April 28). Boston Consulting Group. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from

Baatarsuren, B. (2021, April 12). The 6 Most Beautiful and Magnificent Islands in China. Discover China. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from

Switow, M. (2021, March 31). Chinese Theme Park Industry Continues to Grow Despite Pandemic. IAAPA. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from

Ross, B. (2022, March 18). Theme Park Marketing & Industry Trends Shaping 2022 from. Linchpin SEO. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from


Published by D'vorah Graeser March 17, 2023