UK's robots get boost under national network

A network for robots and autonomous systems will launch across the UK to accelerate their development ahead of other countries.

The EPSRC-funded UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network will gather professors, researchers and companies under the same ‘roof’ to synchronise the potential economic impact of an industry that could yield $1.9tr to $6.4tr per year by 2025, according to McKinsey.

The network will be unveiled this evening at the Science Museum in London following a public lecture on Robot Ethics, and has been backed by RAEng, IET and IMechE. It aims to include game-changing national labs as well as international collaborators. The global market for service and industrial robots is estimated to reach $59.5bn by 2020.

Jo Johnson, universities and science minister, 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.”

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

Guang-Zhong Yang, director and co-founder of the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College London and chair of the UK-RAS Network said: “Robotics and autonomous systems are set to play an increasing vital role in the growth of the UK economy across all sectors of industry, from transport and healthcare to manufacturing and unmanned systems. 

“This dedicated network provides a focus for the UK’s research and engineering excellence for the first time, ensuring that the UK can maintain its competitive edge in RAS innovation.”

The network plans to host a UK Robotics conference in the future and lobby for government policy and high-level engagement with international stakeholders.

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