What's new in the EU: EU to double its R&D investment in robotics

The EU currently has a strong position in the use of industrial robots for automation, as about one third of all industrial robots are produced in Europe.

eu flag biz 88 (photo credit: )
eu flag biz 88
(photo credit: )
At the occasion of AUTOMATICA 2008, one of the leading international trade fairs in robotics and automation held this year in Germany, the European Commission recently announced a policy to boost European robotics. The European Union said it will double its investments with almost €400 million to support European robotics research. This ambitious program aims to forge stronger links between academia and industry, and plans to fund a widespread experimentation by academic researchers and industry. The European Commission called on the industry to intensify its efforts in producing critical components in Europe, such as gears, to face competition from Asia and avoid strategic dependencies on other regions of the world. The European Commission reportedly supports research on the construction of artificial cognitive systems than can interpret information (images, text, speech, video footage) and other forms of sensor data, and act purposefully and autonomously toward achieving goals. These systems should learn and develop through individual or social interaction with their environment. The work could provide an enabling technology that applies across domains, such as natural language understanding, image recognition, automated reasoning and decision support, robotics and automation, sensing and process control, and complex real-world systems. The work hopes to borrow insights from the biosciences, and yield innovative insights about perception, understanding, interaction, learning and knowledge representation. The European Commission declared that by promoting research into systems that have cognitive functions normally associated with people or animals, and which exhibit a high degree of robustness in coping with unpredictable situations, it seeks to overcome limitations of computers, robots and other man-made creations to handle simple everyday situations with common sense and to work without pre-programming in natural surroundings, while maintaining and possibly improving the quality of their services. The European Union currently has a strong position in the use of industrial robots for automation. About one third of all industrial robots are produced in Europe. The robotics market's growth rate will form an important part of the world economy within the next two decades, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which estimates the current world market for industrial robots at about 4 billion and forecasts a 4.2 percent increase per year until 2010. Service robots that operate outside the manufacturing domain offer opportunities for new applications and market expansion: According to the IFR, growth in this market is expected to reach between 10% and 15% per year between now and 2010; the number of professional service robots will grow from 40,000 in 2006 to 75,000 in 2010. Service robots are used in many sectors: for the distribution of goods, for cleaning vehicles, in agriculture and in medical applications. The European Commission says robotics is strategic for Europe's future competitiveness. It believes manufacturing will only be maintained in higher-wage regions such as Europe through automation. Automation is expected also to play a key role in ensuring sustainable production and minimizing wasteful use of resources. Finally it is hoped it will contribute to help Europe's aging society by compensating for a declining labor force. As part of its €400m. research program, the European Commission is taking steps to set up a technology-transfer scheme between academia and industry that will enable European research labs to use industrial-strength robots for large-scale experimentation. The resulting scientific knowledge will directly be fed back to participating companies. Beyond research, European industry recognizes the need for reducing dependencies on critical components such as drives, gears and motors. The European Commission also encourages industry to agree on technical standards and develop business models in this field to ensure sustained provision of such critical components. [email protected] Ari Syrquin is the head of GSCB Law Firm's International Department.