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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Robotic Dreams from the Netherlands 2012

In recent years technology roadmaps have become a popular management planing and forecasting tool for robotics communities in Japan (JSME 2007), Europe (SRA 2009) and USA (RRM 2009). Technology roadmaps are used to define short-term and long-term goals and develop plans how to meet the goals. Robotics academia and industry have used this tool to reach a consensus about a set of robotics needs and the robotics technologies required to satisfy those needs. Strategic Robotics Research Agendas have been used to help forecast technology developments and provide frameworks to plan and coordinate technology investments and developments.
Dutch Robotics Strategic Agenda 2012
The latest example of a national robotics roadmap comes from The Netherlands. Since April 2010, in the Netherlands robotics activities are coordinated by RoboNED. This Dutch robotics network, chaired by Prof. Stefano Stramigioli, aims to stimulate the synergy between the robotics fields and to formulate a national focus. RoboNED  has successfully developed an ecosystem of more than 650 registered interested parties and 340 participants, consisting of a well-balanced representation of researchers, entrepreneurs, societal institutions and users from the various application and technology fields within robotics.

The new Dutch Robotics Strategic Agenda (2012)  is the result of multiple iterations among the key players in the Netherlands and a real Dutch teamwork. Robotics is described as a "large multidisciplinary field including many key technologies and with a very broad  field of applications." Based on a market analysis and selected application fields a number of key markets, opportunities and risks for Dutch robotics have been studied.
Dutch Robotics 2012

Credit: Lely, Astronaut Milking System

The Dutch robotics community describes robotics as a booming industry and urges the country, not to "miss the train!", which means to motivate politicans to invest money in robotics R&D. A well known message from robotistics all over the world in search of research funding. Roboned foresights with reference to Japanese industry data from 2005 and IFR industry statistics 2010 a "huge opportunity for the Netherlands to become an important global player in robotics".

From Milking Automation to Elderly Care Automation

The Dutch robotics vision is based on the fact that the Netherlands is world leader in milking robots developed and launched almost twenty years ago by Dutch company Lely. In early December 2011 the 12,500th Lely Astronaut milking robot was installed. Total estimated revenue from milking robotics sales in 2010 was around  $ 390 million in the Netherlands, being around 11 % of the worldwide professional service robot market and 52 % of the global field  robot  market. Considering the expected worldwide growth in this field (17.4 % over 2010-2014), the chances for the Netherlands in field robotics are expected to be huge. Besides the field robotics, the Dutch company Frog AGV Systems is active in logistic robotics. In domestic service robotics Philips is active in the robot vacuum cleaner market.

Opportunities & Strengths

Roboned repeats what other robotics communities have claimed before, that there is a "large social need for robotics e.g. in healthcare due to the aging population and in agriculture due to shortage of labor."
In Care Robotics the Netherlands have a good starting position due to scientific knowledge and available technology. Some of the most interesting robotics applications in Agro & food are livestock farming (milking robots, cleaning), arable farming (autonomous vehicles), protected cultivation (harvesting),  orchards (harvesting, spraying), plant propagation, ornamentals (pruning), and post-harvest processing (grading, packing). This are great opportunities for highly ranked Dutch universities to participate in robotics R&D in cooperation with "a lot of innovative high-tech mechatronic engineering companies supplying components for the robotics industry." The strength of the Netherlands is also a positive innovation climate, with direct connections between companies and knowledge institutes.

Weaknesses and Threats
Some of the weaknesses studied by Roboned are the lack of qualified engineers to develop competitive robotics solutions, the lack of investors in robotics and skepticism in society about robotics. Roboned confirms also that social acceptance of robots is a critical issue.

Final conclusion
Despite the identified weaknesses and threats Roboned is optimistic for Dutch robotics and recommends cross-domain collaboration on technological and economic challenges. The final selfpromoting message of Roboned is that "it is of great importance to the development of robotics that the existing ecosystem is further developed and academia-industry collaboration is improved in order to transform opportunities into commercialized products."


Daniel Berleant said...

Nice review. Interesting that milking robots have such a high profile. Who wda thunk it. DB (

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mateo smith said...

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