£16m in new EPSRC funding for R&D into robotics

Posted on 9 May 2012

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced a major new partnership with industry, with funding for 22 new projects announced.

Aimed at improving the production capability of “smart machines that think for themselves”, the Government hopes that the funding will help companies produce machines that are capable of operating in the harshest environments with the same efficiency and precision as a human being.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science announced funding for 22 R&D projects spread across the country at the opening ceremony of the Bristol Robotics Centre at the University of West England.

The partnership between the Government and industry is in the form of a working agreement between the EPSRC and an eight-strong group of industry leaders:

  1. BAE Systems
  2. Schlumberger
  3. National Nuclear Laboratory
  4. Sellafield Ltd
  5. Network Rail
  7. The UK Space Agency
  8. DSTL

Mr Willetts said: “Robotics and autonomous intelligent systems are areas of science in which the UK has world class expertise, but to reap the full benefits for the economy and society we need to get better at applying the technology to industry.”

Professor David Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC commented: “These technologies can help us in many practical ways, for instance, using unmanned air or land vehicles to monitor emergency situations like disasters or to carry out maintenance inspections. But the research will also look at how people and systems interact and help develop further our understanding of how knowledge can be acquired and used independently by machines that learn.”

One of the 22 planned R&D projects planned is the ‘self drive submarine’ project to be undertaken and completed at Kings College, London. Scientists plan to demonstrate how Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, performing inspection and investigation missions, can cooperate and pool information to achieve success when communications are intermittent and external control restricted.