UK facility to bridge robotics gap

ABB Robots

The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIF) in Bristol, UK, which launches later today, forms part of the €20m (£15.8m) ECHORD++ research and manufacturing in robotics project. This is funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.

The Bristol-based RIF is part of a Europe-wide cluster with two further institutions being located at the Biorobotics Institute in Pisa, Italy and the CEA, Paris, France.

By providing free access to robotics equipment and experts, according to the University of the West of England, who collaborate with Bristol University through the BRL, the Bristol RIF will be dedicated to the interaction between robot manufacturers, researchers, and end users.

The RIF supports businesses, SMEs in particular, to help them work with new robotic technologies, demonstrate robotic application areas; and develop new value chains in existing and emerging sectors, a UWE statement said.

Farid Dailami, who heads the Bristol RIF, said: “SMEs, other businesses and manufacturers can sometimes find it difficult to access the latest technology, and understand the potential of robotics and how future deployment could help their business. For example, companies frequently have a product or process idea or improvement but can’t take it to the next stage within their current capabilities.”

According to Dailami, the Bristol RIF will be able to support companies in their decisions about their robotic needs before investing.

“Through the RIF we would be able to carry out the necessary experiments and modelling to help them understand possibilities, and resource permitting, support them in getting extra funding to continue development. We can also introduce companies to national and Europe-wide networks beneficial to the development of their innovation and ideas,” Dailami said.

An application process that companies will initially be expected to complete in order to contact the Bristol RIF.

“If the company is eligible, and once we are clear what the problem is and how we can help, we set up a meeting and take the process forward,” Dailami said.

“We are also offering a series of workshops which will help participants to develop their understanding of this field and the potential of robotics to enhance their business.”

One such company to have already profited from working with the RIF plan is Numatic International, who manufactures the ’Henry’ vacuum cleaner.

Stuart Cochrane, manufacturing manager for Numatic International said: “The RIF has helped us to evaluate appropriate solutions for our business and we have expanded our knowledge base through attending short courses on automation theory and practice. This process has enabled us to trial the effectiveness of automation on components that were not originally designed for this.”

RIF Bristol will launch today at the UWE Exhibition and Conference Centre.