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£5 million boost for next generation robotics technologies

06 July 2016

Science Minister Jo Johnson has announced a £5 million challenge, to encourage UK companies and academics to develop robotic innovations.

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The challenge will encourage UK businesses and academic institutions to work together to develop new and novel uses for robotics and autonomous systems across different industry sectors. The competition has been devised by the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Speaking at the end of EPSRC's robotics week the minister said, “the UK is a world leader in advanced robotic technologies that promise to transform so many aspects of our lives. Through this £5 million competition we will build UK expertise in robotics and autonomous systems and open up new opportunities for innovative businesses and economic growth.

A recent report by McKinsey ("Disruptive Technologies") predicts that technologies related to RAS as having a potential annual economic impact in 2025 between $9.8-19.3 trillion.

Paul Mason, Director of Emerging and Enabling Technologies at Innovate UK said “the UK has a healthy eco-system of large and small companies developing future-focused innovations, often in partnership with universities. Our targeted support for companies working in the sector is already helping SMEs to develop, grow and gain an early advantage in the global marketplace”.

“As we are a business focused organisation, Innovate UK recognises that there are a number of challenges and risks in developing, integrating and validating technologies and systems in this area. That is why we, along with EPSRC, have developed this competition to target support for the sector. It will de-risk those developments and will ensure that UK companies are well-placed to take a market lead in the development of next generation robotics and more autonomous, 'self-learning' systems”.

Many of the challenges which industry faces are common to many industries and so the focus of this competition will be to develop solutions which will solve problems across more than one sector. Areas of focus will include Service Robotics (health, services, IoT etc.); Demanding Environments (off-shore energy, chemicals, O&G); and Mobile Production (agriculture, power distribution, etc.).

The competition will encourage innovators to develop links between the behaviour of the robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) in the physical world and the algorithms & software implementing their interactions, and systems where the machine drives decision-making processes, based on experience, rather than human users or operators.

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