Funding boost for UK robotic projects as government invests £7m

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Some 38 robotics and automation projects will receive a share of £7m of investment from the UK government, as it works to “build back better” following the coronavirus pandemic.

Located across the UK, the projects aim to use robotics and AI to transform key UK industries and sectors, from life sciences to offshore energy, by making them safer and more productive.

The funding forms part of the government’s commitment to invest in and raise economy-wide investment in research and development to 2.4% by 2027.

Science minister Amanda Solloway, said: “We are throwing our weight behind the most transformative technologies because innovation is at the very core of our plans to build back better from the pandemic, drive productivity and grow the economy.

“From a first of its kind automated rescue service for UK offshore energy workers, to drone technology delivering for our NHS, these robotics technologies could be game changing as part of our continued efforts to tackle global challenges – from pandemic preparedness to climate change – all while cementing the UK’s status as a science superpower.”

One project to be awarded funding is Offshore Survival Systems from Edinburgh. It is being backed to develop a first of its kind search and rescue service which will use a network of semi-autonomous unmanned rescue vessels (URVs) to save lives at sea.

The URV project will be aimed primarily at supporting UK workers in the offshore energy industry who must deal with increased wind speeds and wave heights, while working far from shore.

Additionally, Motion Robotics in Southampton is developing a smart drone pad control centre to deal with a future increase in levels of drone transport for healthcare. The control centre will help coordinate drone flights between hospitals and suppliers or laboratories, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted supply chain.

Andrew Tyrer, challenge director for the Robots for a Safer World challenge, added: “The funding is crucial to widening the scope of our work and reach out to innovative designers not captured by our previous competitions.

“With net zero ambitions underlying industrial plans in every sector, and the chance to rebuild new industries after the pandemic, robotics, AI and automation are vital ingredients for the future.”

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