AN Edinburgh-based centre has been awarded funding of nearly £1 million to help it develop innovative robot technology that will revolutionise industry and health care.

The funding announcement came as the capital prepares to host the 2017 European Robotics Forum, which opens on Wednesday and will see robotics scientists, companies and policymakers from across Europe descend on the city.

The Edinburgh-based Centre for Robotics is a joint initiative between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh.

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The latest cash boost for the centre is to help develop robotics and artificial intelligence technologies.

The funds, which have been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, are part of an overall £6.5m capital investment to enhance capabilities and enable collaboration within the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network.

The funding will allow the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics (ECR) to develop four new robots, including a Tiago service robot which could become an integral part of the care package provided in future homes and care facilities. Using state of the art facilities at the Robotarium, researchers will investigate how robots can be integrated into the health care system, supporting health care professionals and family carers with physical and cognitive support.

Professor David Lane from Heriot-Watt said: “The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics is a unique collaboration designed to test the feasibility of applying robotic solutions to many real-world scenarios and challenges.

“This funding provides a further boost to our available technology capital. Part of this investment will support our research into affordable, robot-assisted surgical and diagnostic devices that can benefit the NHS, as well as be used as solutions for global health challenges.

“Robots are set to revolutionise our economy and society over the next 20 years as they start to work for us and beside us, assisting us and interacting with us.”

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, Professor of Robotics at Edinburgh University and co-director of the ECR, added: “This award will enable us to further address many of the challenges facing industry and society today. We will be investigating how Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) can reduce cost and operator risk and improve productivity when applied to the inspection, repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure such as nuclear, offshore energy and space. To enable this, new robotic platforms such as the ANYmal quadruped inspection robot, designed to operate in extreme environments, are set to join the hardware platform line-up at Edinburgh, which already includes the Nasa Valkyrie humanoid.

“The funding will also enable the creation of living labs at Robotarium East at the University of Edinburgh, with mock-ups for hospital and collaborative manufacturing automation.”

The latest funding announcement follows news that scientists at Heriot-Watt are part of a consortium delivering a human-robotics hybrid solution for the maintenance and operation of off-shore wind farms. The team will receive a share of a £4m grant to create remote inspection and repair technologies.

This year also marks the launch of Heriot-Watt University’s Year of Robotics which will showcase its contribution to the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.