The European Commission has announced a policy to boost European robotics. The European Union will double its investments between 2007 and 2010 with almost € 400 million to support European robotics research. This ambitious programme aims to forge stronger links between academia and industry, and plans to fund a widespread experimentation by academic researchers and industry.
"There is a clear window of opportunity for automation industries in Europe – in particular robotics – not just to maintain leadership, but to grow further and to move higher up the value chain", said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media at Automatica in Munich this week. "To achieve this, the industry has to intensify its efforts in several areas".
The European Union has today a strong position in industrial robots for automation: about one third of all industrial robots are produced in Europe. The robotics market's growth rate will form an important part of the world economy within the next two decades: the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimates the current world market for industrial robots at about € 4 billion and forecasts a 4.2% increase per year until 2010.
Service robots that operate outside the manufacturing domain offer opportunities for new applications and market expansion: according to the IFR, growth in this market is expected to reach between 10% and 15% per year between now and 2010 and the number of professional service robots will grow from 40,000 in 2006 to 75,000 in 2010. Service robots are used in many sectors, e.g. for the distribution of goods, for cleaning vehicles, in agriculture and in medical applications.
Robotics is strategic for Europe's future competitiveness. Manufacturing will only be maintained in higher wage regions such as Europe through automation. Automation also plays a key role in ensuring a sustainable production and minimizing wasteful use of resources.Finally it will contribute to help Europe's ageing society by compensating for a declining labour force.