School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


17 Jun 2021

Researchers aim to make robots more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses with new £1.4m project

Image of factory

A £1.4m project aimed at boosting the uptake of robots in small and medium-sized manufacturing will investigate ways to more easily change, adapt and repurpose automated systems. 

Most robots used in industry are highly specialised, making them expensive and difficult to quickly respond to new tasks. This has limited their adoption, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who depend on their agility to be competitive in a dynamic global market.

The UK has also seen significantly less use of robots compared to other industrial nations, only catching up to the global average of 85 robots per 10,000 employees in 2019.

In response, a new business model known as Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) is emerging that allows companies to pay a small fee to lease robotic devices – and services such as maintenance – rather than having to pay large upfront capital costs to buy systems outright.

The RaaS business model will give organizations the capability to scale up and down quickly and easily in response to changing market conditions and client needs.

However, for the model – which emerged in the early 2010s for service robots – to be applicable for industrial automation systems, a number of issues still need to be addressed such as slow deployment, resilience and the ability to detect objects and people.

Now, a new £1.4m project from Loughborough University, funded by the EPSRC, is aiming to significantly improve the ease with which robots are hired, deployed, maintained, and adapted.

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