Network to develop robotics and autonomous systems launched

The University of Liverpool is one of the founding members of a network aiming to develop and exploit the vast potential of robotics and autonomous systems.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network) will bring together the UK’s core academic capabilities in robotics innovation under national coordination for the first time, and encourage academic and industry collaborations that will accelerate the development and adoption of robotics and autonomous systems.

Huge growth potential

UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson said: “Robotics and autonomous systems have huge growth potential for the UK as one of our Eight Great Technologies.

“To get it right we need to draw on the expertise of the UK’s research base and the ambition of industry. By working collaboratively, this network will only help to accelerate growth of a high-tech sector and pave the way for new high-value, skilled jobs – a win, win scenario for the UK.”

”By working collaboratively, this network will only help to accelerate growth of a high-tech sector and pave the way for new high-value, skilled jobs – a win, win scenario for the UK”

The new network has already received strong support by major industrial partners; the Science Museum and the UK’s major professional engineering bodies including Royal Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), and The Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Dr Mike Jump, from the University’s School of Engineering, said: “Liverpool is proud to be one of the founder members of the EPSRC-funded RAS network. It recognises Liverpool’s existing research strengths in one of the UK’s Eight Great Technologies and will provide an increased opportunity for inter-disciplinary and cross-institution collaboration in this exciting and important area”.

It will expand to include broader stakeholders including key national laboratories in the UK and leading international collaborators in both academia and industry. The global market for service and industrial robots is estimated to reach $59.5 billion by 2020.

A wide range of activities will be organised, including network and strategic roadmap events such as the UK Robotics conference; symposia and focused workshops; public engagement and exhibitions. It will also have extensive online engagement activities using social media and web and user forums.

The aim is to strengthen the relationship with industry by supporting interdisciplinary mobility and industrial secondment and developing proof-of-concept (PoC) projects and running design challenges. There is also a strong emphasis on government policy and high-level engagement with international stakeholders.

Significant impact

Kedar Pandya, EPSRC Head of the Engineering Theme, said: “Working with Innovate UK and other research council partners, EPSRC’s mission is to support and invest in the world-leading research base that has earned the UK its deserved reputation for research excellence.

“Robotics and Autonomous Systems are one of the Eight Great Technologies in which the UK is set to be a global leader, and the technology being developed at these EPSRC-funded RAS facilities will deliver a significant impact on the research landscape, and attract the kind of industrial investment that will maximise the UK’s stake in the worldwide robotics market.”

The other founding network members are Imperial College London, Bristol Robotics Lab, University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, University of Leeds, Loughborough University, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton, University College London, and University of Warwick.

Listen to Dr Louise Dennis on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme discuss the importance of robotics and autonomous systems:

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