29 Nov 2021
New robotics research centre will transform the relationship between people and technology in UK manufacturing
A new national robotics research centre will receive a share of £25m to improve collaborative technology and help businesses unlock the full potential of automated industrial manufacturing.
The Made Smarter Innovation Research Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics led by Loughborough University aims to advance smart manufacturing by eliminating barriers and accelerating widespread use of smart collaborative robotics technology to unlock the full potential of the UK industry in productivity, quality, and adaptability.
The centre will bring together a team of world-class experts from Loughborough University, Cranfield University, the University of Strathclyde, the University of Warwick, and the University of Bristol, with experience in manufacturing, engineering, digital technology, robotics, human-factors, verification and safety, law, psychology, systems engineering, metrology, and ICT.
It also comprises of key organisations across core UK industrial sectors including aerospace, automotive, agri-food, green energy, construction, and space.
Project lead Dr Niels Lohse, of Loughborough’s Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, said: “Automation increases productivity, safeguards manufacturing, creates and protects jobs.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for greater responsiveness and resilience. With disruptions to supply chains and workforce availability, collaborative robot sales more than doubled, but the UK remains significantly behind other highly industrialised nations.
“While there is a huge appetite for the benefits of industrial automation, its full potential remains untapped. The perceived and actual high initial investment cost for specialised, automation equipment is a significant barrier for wider adoption.
“The need for highly specialised skill sets limits the design, implementation, and maintenance of automation. Specialised equipment is often too inflexible particularly for SMEs with modifications being either too expensive or impractical. People and automation are separated by inflexible safety, regulatory, procedural, physical, and psychological barriers preventing effective collaboration.
“Bringing the automation community together will be essential for addressing the unique challenges faced by UK industry to unlock the full potential of their highly skilled workforce through automation and digital technology.”