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Brussels, 28 November 2011

Digital Agenda: 340 events for European Robotics Week

Over 120 organisations from industry, research institutes and universities representing 17 European countries are taking part in the first European Robotics Week. Information on events near you is here. Two of the featured robots are the FILOSE fish robot and the iCub robot, which interacts with people.

How can robots benefit European society?

In the near future robots and devices with robotic functions will be used almost everywhere. Creating an energy and resource-efficient production with economies of scale, creation and retention of equal-opportunity and high-quality employment, coping with an ageing work-force by keeping the ageing workforce with valuable work experience in the production process, independent living for elderly people, affordable health care, protection against external and internal threats to security – without robotics these goals are very hard to achieve. Robotics will help European manufacturing stay competitive against global competition.

A considerable share of research in robotics in Europe is focused on medical and rehabilitation research, such as robotics surgery (see IP/11/1462) and patient rehabilitation, for example with stroke patients who need constant monitoring and regularly adjusted support.

How big is the robotic industry?

Robotics is a thriving sector expected to create one million jobs worldwide in coming years, including in the Germany auto industry and Danish shipbuilding industry. In 2010 more than 118,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide – almost twice as many as in 2009. For 2011, 18% growth is forecast. In particular professional service robots are expected to enjoy sales increase of 60% by 2014.

What is the European Robotics Week?

Aimed at the general public, the first European Robotics Week focuses on inspiring Europeans of all ages to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, or learn about the role robots can and will play in daily life. Events include school visits, open labs, exhibitions, challenges, robots in action on public squares, and much more.

The Science Museum in London is organising the Robotville Festival, where 20 unique robots will be displayed, including FILOSE fish robot and the iCub robot. One of the projects taking centre stage during Robotics week is the European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development, or ECHORD.

What does the ECHORD project do?

ECHORD's unique approach brings together 53 universities and 80 industrial companies (including many SMEs and start-ups) to put the EU robotics industry in a global leadership position by improving the technology transfer between academia and industry. ECHORD's experiments include those geared towards joint enabling technologies (develop new robots, components, networks, etc.); others towards application development (use of robots and components in new areas and scenarios, such as using robots in agriculture); and others towards feasibility demonstration (showing that prototypes can actually be deployed in specific industrial settings which do not yet use robots).

What are the benefits of ECHORD for European SMEs?

ECHORD constitutes an opportunity to transfer advanced robotics technologies to new industrial applications, even for companies with a limited R&D budget. Two examples of the new business opportunities ECHORD has created include:

  • COWBOI (COoperative Welding employing roBOt Intelligence) enables welding of small lot sizes with manual efforts reduced to an interactive, intuitive, fast and highly accurate task specification by the user. One of the key aspects is the increase in robot autonomy. This means that the human co-worker doesn't have to specify the exact robot movement, which may be a tedious and error-prone task when complex geometries are involved. One of the partners of COWBOI is "Blackbird Robotersysteme", a small Munich-based university spin-off company specialised in software and controls for robotic laser processing. Participating in ECHORD is a chance for them to extend the range of their own research and to provide fundamentals for future product development.

  • FIDELIO (Fixtureless de-burring of wheels by human demonstration).. Robotic researchers have developed prototype robotic systems able to observe and learn from human operations: the information coming from a variety of observations is analysed and transformed into an abstract representation of the task. Afterwards, the robot is able to autonomously generate a programme to reproduce the task, even in an environment which is different from the one observed during the learning phase.

How is ECHORD financed?

ECHORD is financed partly by the European Commission and partly by its participating partners. The total budget of ECHORD is €24.9 million. The European Commission's contribution is €18.9 million

What other support does robotics research receive from the EU?

The EU supports more than 100 projects in the area of robotics and cognitive systems with €400 million of funding between 2007 and 2011.

More on the European Robotics Week:

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