Pioneering spirit

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



Loughlin, C. (2004), "Pioneering spirit", Industrial Robot, Vol. 31 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Pioneering spirit

Pioneering spirit

It was recently my great honor to host, in conjunction with ABB, a Robot Pioneers Reunion. Although primarily intended for UK robot pioneers we were delighted that friends and colleagues from the USA were also able to join us to remember old times and discuss how things had progressed and where they were going.

Our Guest of Honour was Joe Engelberger, the original pioneer, and a strong reminder that the pioneering spirit, and struggles still continue.

To summarise the feelings of the day I can do no better than to include and extract from a letter sent to me by Walt Weisel, CEO of Robotic Workspace Technologies Inc.

Being amongst so many “pioneers” was a great way to remember the contributions and the integrity of the people who worked and struggled to make this technology what it is today. It would be wonderful if the “new players” in this industry could learn from these people who today shared so many rich experiences with each other.

To a certain degree, for all of the changes that have taken place over the years there are so many comparisons of what are still barriers today. Funding, cost justification and a reluctance to take “risks” on applications that have been duplicated around the world thousands of times and operating successfully for years, only to be challenged with skepticism by those newly introduced.

Your magazine has done a great service over the years and in arranging this meeting. I'm sure most of us came to realize during this time together that it has all been worth it. The world is a better place because of our efforts and after the Robot Pioneers Reunion I know many of us saw more clearly who we are today. Through this gathering we could each see more clearly what our combined efforts have meant to establishing a world class technology.

These were the people who kept a close focus on Joe Engelberger's vision from the 60's. His comments today about the future for the robotic technologies future should again be taken very seriously by the next round of pioneers. There is much be done.

Times are changing, and it is in the nature of pioneers to move on and seek out new challenges. The original robot business created by our pioneers is now a mature industry.

I often think it takes three different types of people to make a good business. You need someone with creativity, dogged determination and a strong belief in their ideals to start a business, then you need a creative entrepreneur to rescue it from financial difficulties and then someone with a steady pair of hands to give it a long-term future.

The news of the major shakeups in Adept serve to aptly illustrate the above evolutionary process. On one hand it is sad when founders (or pioneers) move on, but as each door closes another opens up and it is in this way that progress and advancement can be made.

The pioneering spirit is a fierce flame that can withstand strong winds. Long may it remain so.

Clive Loughlin

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