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Robots for a safer world

An overview of government's challenge to industry and research to develop robotics and AI that keep people safe when working in extreme environments.


Robots for a safer world

What is the robots for a safer world challenge?

Greater use of robotics and artificial intelligence in our society will help to increase productivity, make us more resilient, and create safer, high-quality work for people. It could transform industries with extreme environments, such as nuclear and offshore energy, deep mining and space. Importantly, these systems could also help to improve how we deliver industrial and public services.

The government will support industry and research to develop new technologies and systems that can be deployed in these extreme environments.

This should enable the UK to access a growing global market for robotics and AI, which is estimated to be worth between $1.7 and $4.5 trillion by 2025.

What’s the investment?

There will be up to £93 million made available to industry and researchers in order to de-risk research and innovation in advanced robotics and create a safer working world.

What are the opportunities?

Opportunities will be available to UK-based researchers and businesses.

The funding will be invested in:

Collaborative research and development and demonstrator projects

Through funding competitions, UK businesses can get a grant either for collaborative innovative projects to improve robotics and AI capabilities or to test and prove their ideas in real-world extreme environments.

Projects that have received funding so far include using autonomous submarines to assess ice hazards in the ocean and drones to inspect and maintain offshore wind farms.

Research hubs for robotics

Four new research hubs will be created from a £44.5 million government investment, plus additional funding from industry and commercial partners.

The hubs will be based at the University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, Heriot-Watt University and University of Surrey. These will further investigate extreme environments, including those that are currently not accessible due to them being too dangerous for people.

Funded projects


Thurn Group: remotely surveying shipping routes

To survey and assess arctic ice retreat, Thurn Group is putting autonomous submarines under the ice to remotely identify hazards to shipping and infrastructure, where it would be too dangerous to send people.


Perceptual Robotics: drones to maintain offshore wind farms

Instead of sending crews of people, Perceptual Robotics is exploring how drones might be used to inspect the large offshore wind farms in the North Sea, which is subject to very high wind and wave conditions.