A £1m funding competition that will help develop Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) technology in the UK has been launched by the Technology Strategy Board.
The Technology Strategy Board’s investment is for feasibility studies to accelerate the development of RAS concepts where robots are able to interact with each other and humans. They are able to use sensors to learn from their environment, adapting their behaviour and making choices based on their stored knowledge and experiences.
The results could lead to greater commercialisation of technology innovations in sectors such as aerospace, defence, transport, health, consumer goods and manufacturing.
Speaking at the launch of the fund, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said the investment would give UK companies “the time and space” they need to develop Robotics and Autonomous Systems.
“This is an exciting technology area that could make a real difference to a range of sectors such as high value manufacturing and agriculture.
“We are in a global race to develop new innovations and this competition will give researchers the freedom to explore early-stage ideas which can be demonstrated to potential investors and turned into commercially successful products.”
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In RAS, service robots work alongside people but act autonomously or semi-autonomously of their control in a number of complex, dynamic environments, some of which are hazardous to humans. For example, Autonomous Systems are playing increasingly important roles in deep sea exploration, the maintenance of oil and gas facilities and space exploration.
The industry offers the opportunity for companies to develop and integrate a range of technologies – for example software engineering, human-machine interaction, modelling and simulation, wireless communications and microprocessors – so that autonomous service robotics can work truly effectively.
The Technology Strategy Board funding is for projects that develop early-stage and novel concepts to address identifiable challenges and mitigate risks. Technical feasibility studies are initial studies undertaken prior to embarking on a subsequent and larger R & D project.
All projects must be collaborative and led by an SME. They will last up to 12 months and each grant is envisaged to be up to £133K, although projects outside this range will be considered.