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The Pransky interview: Dr Rob Buckingham, Director at UK Atomic Energy Authority and Robotics Pioneer

Joanne Pransky (Independent Robotics Consultant, San Francisco, California, USA)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 17 October 2016




The following article is a “Q&A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry engineer-turned successful business leader, regarding the commercialization and challenges of bringing technological inventions to market while overseeing a company. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The interviewee is Dr Rob Buckingham, Director at UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Robotics Pioneer. Dr Buckingham is an innovator of snake-arm robotics for confined and hazardous environments. In this interview, Dr Buckingham shares some of his 30+ year personal and business experiences of working in industry, academia, co-founding and directing a robotics company and heading up a new UK government-funded organization for remote handling.


Dr Buckingham received his BSc and his MEng in the Special Engineering Programme at Brunel University in London. The program’s objective was to train engineers for the industry by developing problem-solving abilities and decision-making skills of students, which Buckingham accomplished while being sponsored by the UKAEA and as a National Engineering Scholar. After obtaining his PhD in robotics at the University of Bristol, Buckingham, he remained at Bristol for two years as a lecturer in mechanical engineering. In 1997, he co-founded OC Robotics, a private company that designs snake-arm robots specifically to operate in confined spaces. Buckingham directed OC until 2014, when he returned to where he began his early career, UKAEA Culham, this time as a Director and Head of the new Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) Centre. Under Buckingham’s leadership, RACE is involved in exploring many areas of remote operations, including inspection, maintenance and decommissioning and will be instrumental in developing new remote tools and techniques for academia and industry.


With the unique experience of studying at a university’s distinctive engineering program while working as a young engineer for the UKAEA who sponsored him, Dr Buckingham found his lifelong passion and career in robotics for remote handling. He was one of the creators of the emerging field of snake-arm robotics. He is now applying his innovative, commercial technologies and strategies from working in the nuclear, aerospace, construction and petrochemicals sectors to the industry of nuclear fusion. Dr Buckingham was awarded The Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal in 2009. In the same year, his company OC Robotics won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of Innovation. Buckingham is also a Fellow of the UK Institute of Engineering Technology, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a visiting professor at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. He was co-chair of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Special Interest Group Steering Group during the preparation of the influential UK RAS strategy, which has since been adopted by UK Government.



Pransky, J. (2016), "The Pransky interview: Dr Rob Buckingham, Director at UK Atomic Energy Authority and Robotics Pioneer", Industrial Robot, Vol. 43 No. 6, pp. 577-582.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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