The novel physical design and development of robotic systems, for both fundamental and applied purposes.
This area encompasses the novel physical design and development of robotic systems for both fundamental and applied purposes, including underpinning control mechanisms, aspects of human-robot interaction, and programmed automation/autonomy in such systems.
There is significant opportunity for robotics research to underpin developments across multiple sectors in the emerging industrial strategy, particularly by:
- creating new capabilities in challenging and extreme environments
- enabling healthy or independent living
- ensuring safe, efficient transport
- developing next-generation manufacturing.
This strategy reflects the integral role of our research and training in enabling development of systems involving Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI), and their impact on other research areas.
Support for fundamental, cross-sector research is core. We aim to ensure the UK builds on existing investments to develop leadership and strengthen opportunities, leading to long term economic and societal returns, and to continue to work with Innovate UK, business and government.
To unlock the significant potential, we will:
- work to deliver a step change in UK businesses’ output and productivity through accelerated deployment of next generation RAI technologies
- strengthen coordination and collaboration with our innovation partners to avoid duplication of effort and, in particular, to seek opportunities to enhance links with international partners
- facilitate a community focus on underpinning, enabling research in autonomous transport, extreme and challenging (hazardous) environments, health and social care, and next generation manufacturing
- develop leadership in the robotics community to realise the area’s potential and increase UK visibility
- examine pressures on training capacity and take action where necessary
- explore emerging opportunities and challenges in nascent areas of robotics (for example, soft robotics) and take action to support these as required.
We will encourage the community to demonstrate that the ethical, legal and regulatory implications of robotics have been considered.
Since the initial publication of this research area rationale, the UKRI Challenge Fund has provided £45.5 million to support four hubs in robotics and artificial intelligence for extreme and challenging (hazardous) environments.
The four hubs are:
- The National Centre for Nuclear Robotics – a consortium of eight universities developing cutting-edge technology to solve the problem of nuclear waste
- The Future AI and Robotics for Space Hub – advancing the capabilities needed to enable space robots to perform complex tasks on long-duration missions with little or no human intervention
- The Robotics and AI in Nuclear Hub – developing the advanced robotics and artificial intelligence that will be essential for future nuclear operations
- The Offshore Robotics for the Certification of Assets Hub – developing robotic systems and artificial intelligence solutions to assist asset integrity management for the offshore energy sector.
EPSRC remains committed to all of the strategic areas identified, and encourages researchers to consider submitting proposals across the full spectrum of fundamental, enabling research:
- autonomous transport
- extreme and challenging (hazardous) environments
- health and social care
- next generation manufacturing