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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Future of European Robotics

Credit: euRobotics  
The European robotics community led by the two networks EURON and EUROP has started to reorganize for the next European Commission (EC) programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, running from 2014 to 2020 with an indicative €80 billion budget. 
Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness and to create new growth and jobs in Europe. Horizon 2020 buzz words are increasing impact and simplification. 
Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)
As a part of Horizon 2020, the EC is seeking the establishment of so called public-private partnerships (PPP), which are addressing major societal challenges by strengthening Europe‘s competitive position in a particular business sector.
According to Libor Král, Head of Unit Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics, DG Information Society and Media, European Commission Europe has a strong robotics industry with world-class research potential. Eight years ago the Cognitive Systems and Robotics unit within the EU’s FP7 research framework programme, ICT theme, was created to support projects and partners with 70-80 M€ funding of new projects per year. Usually one call per year was announced resulting in up to 200 proposals and 20 new projects launched every year. Between 2007 and 2012 approx. 570 M€ have been invested in European robotics projects, the largest non-military public funding programme in the world. 
The outcome has been a large number of scientific and technical publications, papers and presentations. More than 10.000 roboticists have traveled around the world to meet and exchange information at conferences, seminars and project meetings. New robotics knowledge has been applied in areas such as manufacturing, logistics, transport, healthcare, search & rescue and agriculture. The general public as been informed via robotic events and media to increase the acceptance of robots in daily life and future society. 
The forthcoming challenges according to Mr. Král are to overcome fragmentation of research and to use resources more effectively. Due to saturation of classical markets new application areas need to be identified and closer links between industry and academia. The EU invites the European robotics community to focus on societal challenges, competitiveness and research excellence. What is needed are coherent support for projects and organisations across the innovation cycle from research to retail and stronger support for innovation, including non-technological innovation and market take up.

Robotic Innovations from Europe
Credit: DLR LWR
When asked to list some European success stories Prof. Dr. Bruno Siciliano, Università di Napoli Federico II lists industrial robot innovations such as the 7-axis light-weight robot designed and built by German DLR, the force control system developed at Swedish ABB Corporate Research in cooperation with several Universities, an automatic identification of robot payloads algorithms developed at University of Naples and implemented in COMAU C4G controller. 


Robotics 2020 PPP
According to Dr. Rainer Bischoff, Coordinator Cooperative Research, KUKA Laboratories GmbH and Chairman of EUROP "the European robotics community will lead the world in robotics by creating, designing, developing, innovating, manufacturing and distributing robotic product and services: thereby meeting many societal needs of EU citizens." 
Objectives of the Robotics 2020 PPP is to develop strategic goals of European robotics and foster their implementation, to improve industrial competitiveness of Europe through innovative robotic technologies, to provide robotic products and services as key enablers for solving Europe‘s societal challenges, strengthen networking activities of the European robotics community, promote European Robotics, reach out to existing and new users and markets and to contribute to policy development and addressing ethical, legal and social issues.  
A new legal entity called, euRobotics aisbl, will be established merging the two robotics networks EURON and EUROP. September 18, 2012 a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between EC and 
euRobotics aisbl.

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