Construction begins on £22.4 million National Robotarium in the UK

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The UK has begun construction of a £22.4 million National Robotarium in Edinburgh which aims to solidify the country as a leader in AI and robotics.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

“The creation of the UK’s first National Robotarium in Edinburgh will place Scotland at the forefront of a technological revolution that is changing the way we work.

This exciting new facility, supported by £21 million from the UK Government, will create opportunities for Scotland’s entrepreneurs and innovators, and bring jobs and prosperity to the entire region.

The UK Government has now committed more than £1.5 billion to City Region and Growth Deals which will help communities to build back better from the pandemic.”

Heriot-Watt University will host the Robotarium that will be the UK’s most advanced research facility for related technologies.

Professor Hastie, one of the academic leads of the National Robotarium, said:

“As a world-leading facility that will promote entrepreneurship and drive forward early-stage product development, the National Robotarium will play a significant role in supporting the UK’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

By drawing upon the world-class talent of the staff at Heriot-Watt and our collaborative partner, the University of Edinburgh, alongside students at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems, the National Robotarium will form a centre of excellence for fundamental research and knowledge exchange to address real-world challenges and industry needs.

The new building will facilitate a collaborative approach that is at the heart of the National Robotarium’s ethos, helping to accelerate research from laboratory to market and paving the way for the UK to take a leadership role in AI and robotics technology.”

The building itself is 40,000ft² and has three main R&D areas with high-end facilities specifically for researching and advancing:

  • Robotics & Autonomous Systems (RAS)
  • Human & Robotics Interaction (HRI)
  • High Precision Manufacturing

Professor Yvan Petillot, another academic lead of the National Robotarium, added:

“The cutting-edge resources provided by the new facility combined with the expertise of our researchers will put us in a highly competitive position to elevate the UK onto the global stage in robotics and AI technologies. Our existing and new students will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge by working on real-world problems through internships and industry-led group projects facilitated by the Robotarium, accelerating their skills as they actively shape the future of the field.

We hope to inspire subsequent generations about the positive impact of robotics and artificial intelligence, building trust, ethics and understanding into our research outputs and engaging the public regularly through school visits and open days.”

Some of the specialist equipment the facility will boast includes dedicated laser labs, an autonomous systems laboratory, and a living lab for trialling technologies in a realistic home setting.

(Image: Assisted Living Lab)

Various research projects have already been announced for the National Robotarium including:

  • SPRING (Socially Pertinent Robots in Gerontological Healthcare), developing the world’s first multi-user conversational robot for healthcare, intended to support the care of elderly patients.
  • EPSRC ORCA Hub (Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets), a national hub of five universities led by Heriot-Watt that is advancing technologies to remove humans from hazardous work environments.
  • The assisted living lab will utilise technology to help individuals live independently for longer, with research ranging from robotics and conversational assistants to IoT devices and wireless monitoring techniques.
  • As part of the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) programme, the National Robotarium will spearhead research into ways to manage trust between humans and autonomous systems to support adoption in scenarios that require human interaction, such as in self-driving cars or autonomous wheelchairs.

The building itself will match the innovation within by focusing on energy efficiency. Solar panels will be installed on the roof and electric points will be provided for charging vehicles. In addition, in winter, the intelligent façade will provide solar heat and recycle warm air.

With the UK set to host this year’s COP26 UN climate change summit, the National Robotarium will help to serve as an example of how buildings should be designed with sustainability in mind.

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