Government will invest £93 million to develop new technologies and systems that can be deployed in extreme environments, for industries such as nuclear energy, offshore energy, deep mining and space.
By investing in this area, we should create a safer work for people, improve productivity and support advances in industry and public services.
The fund will support research and innovation to stimulate the development of robotics and artificial intelligence systems. It should allow the UK to access new opportunities in a global market that’s estimated to be worth between $1.7 and $4.5 trillion by 2025.
collaborative research and development (CR&D) and demonstrator projects
research hubs for robotics
CR&D and demonstrator projects
Innovate UK will run funding competitions for businesses to lead collaborative research and development projects in robotics and AI systems development. It will also run demonstrator feasibility studies.
Any business may be eligible to apply to lead a project, so long as they are based in the UK, carry out their project and exploit the results here.
All projects must involve at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) and can be carried out alone or in collaboration with other businesses, research organisations or the third sector.
CR&D projects could look at:
innovative materials or systems, for example, actuators, sensors and telecommunications
improved robotic capabilities, such as structural and radiation tolerance
improved machine vision systems
improved situational awareness, navigation, localisation and mapping
more energy-efficient devices and systems
miniaturised systems, for example, sensors, components and integrated sub-systems
systems engineering including verification and validation tools and methodologies
mission planning and risk management
Demonstrator projects should focus on the technical feasibility of individual technologies, systems or subsystems in extreme environments.
The first competition in this area provided £16.5 million for CR&D projects and £3 million for demonstrators, to support collaborations between businesses, universities and research organisations.
One of the projects to receive funding is led by Thurn Group. The project will use autonomous vessels to survey ice retreat and better understand the threats of the surviving ice. This will make it easier to plot when it’s safe for people to use shipping routes, or install or make changes to offshore infrastructure.
£44.5 million from government and £52 million from industry and commercial partners is being invested to set up 4 research hubs for robotics.
The hubs will lead investigations into offshore energy, nuclear energy and space. They should open up new opportunities for cross-disciplinary research to create new advances in robotics and allow us to explore environments that are too dangerous for humans to enter without risking injury or ill-health.