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Robotics experts focus on industry challenges

Robotics and artificial intelligence researchers are lending their expertise to a raft of newly funded projects with industry applications.

Sethu Vijayakumar & ANYmal machine

Scientists and engineers are to take part in three research hubs that will develop the use of robotics and AI in offshore and renewable energy, space exploration and in the nuclear industry.

The support, from the EPSRC Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, was announced by Claire Perry, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, at an industry event.

Energy challenges

The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics – a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University – will lead a £36 million UK consortium focused on applications in the energy industry.

The hub, also involving the Universities of Oxford and Liverpool and Imperial College London, will seek to develop, deploy and validate robotics and AI (RAI) for the inspection, maintenance and repair of offshore oil and gas and renewable sector installations.

The RAI Hub on Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) has £14.6 million of investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It also benefits from industrial support of more than £18 million and £3.6 million from its university partners.

Space exploration

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh will also bring their expertise to a project focused on next-generation challenges in the space industry.

This partnership will build on strong collaborative ties between the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and NASA, forged by their ongoing Valkyrie humanoid project.

The Future AI and Robotics Hub for Space (FAIR-SPACE), led by the University of Surrey, is funded by £6.7 million investment from the EPSRC and the UK Space Agency with matching contributions from industry.

Nuclear environments

Edinburgh researchers will make use of their own robots in a research hub focused on the nuclear industry.

The £11.4 million National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR), led by the University of Birmingham, seeks to exploit RAI to tackle challenges in nuclear decommissioning, exploration and asset maintenance.

Scientists and engineers at Edinburgh will use robots they have developed, such as the four-legged ANYmal machine, to contribute research into navigating complex or extreme environments.

Building expertise

The projects, which are scheduled to take three and a half years, will in combination deliver research council funding of about £6 million, plus investments from industrial partners, to the University.

The support will enable recruitment of world class post-doctoral researchers.

They will work alongside established research leaders at Edinburgh’s Schools of Informatics and Engineering and top postgraduate students from the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics’ Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

We are absolutely delighted at the scale of new investment to tackle real-world problems in robotics and artificial intelligence, thanks to the vision and leadership behind this funding news. With the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Deal currently being finalised, and new robotics facilities coming online at the University’s Bayes Centre next summer, this is an exciting time to be doing Robotics and AI at Edinburgh.

Professor Sethu VijayakumarDirector of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Edinburgh lead on ORCA and FAIR-SPACE

Fellowships available

Related links

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

UK Space Agengy

About ANYmal