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Robotics research gets a £16m boost as UK’s largest lab opens

09 June, 2012

The UK’s largest robotics laboratory has been opened officially by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, who also announced a £16m programme to develop smart machines, funded jointly by government and industry.

More than £1.65m has been spent on the new Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), which is a partnership between UWE Bristol (University of the West of England) and the University of Bristol. The BRL, which covers about 2,400m2 with more than 300m2 of specialised laboratory space, will be home to a multidisciplinary community of 70 academics and businesses.

Projects already underway at BRL are looking at robot-human interactions, energy autonomy, soft robots with artificial muscles, and non-linear robotics control.

Willetts also announced funding for 22 university-based research projects on robotics and intelligent autonomous systems, across the UK. Led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the scheme has attracted more than £4m of support from industry.

“Robotics and autonomous intelligent systems are areas of science in which the UK has world-class expertise, but to reap the full benefits for the economy and society we need to get better at applying the technology to industry,” Willetts said. “This £16m investment will bring together leaders from the research base and business to develop systems for a range of important sectors, from transport to aerospace.

One project, at Newcastle University, aims to develop autonomous condition monitoring systems with applications for railways and the nuclear industry. And Cranfield University is planning to use the funding to extend previous research on novel sensing, electronic maintenance and decision-making strategies.

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