Research into robotics and autonomous systems will �39.4m of funding from the EPSRC, industry and higher education

Funding for robotics materials and energy storage

Research into robotics, advanced materials and grid-scale energy storage will receive £85m worth of funding.

The three technologies, identified in the pre-budget statement by The Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the government’s “eight great technologies” to drive UK growth, will be given the investment to buy equipment.

Speaking at the Global Intelligent Systems conference in London, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts announced the results of a call for proposals issued by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

He said: “For Britain to get ahead in the global race we have to back emerging technologies and ensure our universities have the latest equipment. This capital investment will help scientists make new discoveries and take their research through to commercial success. It will drive growth and support the government’s industrial strategy.”

The government hopes the investment will underpin key sectors for the UK economy, including automotive, manufacturing, aerospace, energy and healthcare.

Among the facilities benefiting from funding are micro-engineering facilities at Imperial College, London, which develop miniaturised robots to help doctors carry out minimally invasive procedures including gastrointestinal, urological, neuro, cardiac, endovascular, paediatric and orthopaedic surgeries.

The funding will also go towards a new research facility at Brunel University, jointly funded by EPSRC, the automotive firm Constellium and a major luxury car manufacturer, to deliver revolutionary new manufacturing methods for UK carmakers.

The research undertaken at the £14m Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC) at Brunel will focus on reusing metal many times to reduce new metal mining as well as revolutionary new metal casting techniques.

And the grants will also allow the creation of a Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with the University of Hull and industrial partners, to accelerate development of cryogenic energy storage (CES) technology.

The new Centre will be the UK’s first dedicated research facility for energy storage using “liquid air” technology, which uses off-peak electricity to liquefy air that is then vapourised to drive a turbine. The technology could revolutionise the storage of energy and reduce the costs of integrating intermittent renewable energy into the electricity system.

Professor David Delpy, EPSRC chief executive said: “The successful bids will build capability in areas that are vital for the country and where exciting research is already being carried out.

“Developing new ways of storing energy, creating new materials for manufacturing and other industries, and increasing our understanding of how autonomous systems communicate, learn and work with humans.”

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