European robotics: from excellent research to innovative products tackling societal challenges

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 23 August 2011



(2011), "European robotics: from excellent research to innovative products tackling societal challenges", Industrial Robot, Vol. 38 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

European robotics: from excellent research to innovative products tackling societal challenges

Article Type: News From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 38, Issue 5

Europe’s most urgent societal challenges – from ageing society to sustainable manufacturing and increasing security threats – offer excellent business opportunities for the European robotics industry. “To become a world leader we have to increase the pace of innovation to bring Europe’s excellent robotics research to the market”, says Bernd Liepert, CTO of KUKA AG, CEO of KUKA Laboratories GmbH and EUROP President on the occasion of the European Robotics Forum 2011. Supported by the European Commission through the euRobotics Coordination Action, more than 340 robotics researchers from industry and academia, as well as entrepreneurs and public investors are meeting from 6 to 8 April 2011 in Sweden to discuss the latest developments, research challenges and business opportunities for European robotics. The theme of the forum is “Enabling innovation: from research to products”. The Swedish robotics initiative Robotdalen hosts the event.

Robotics – a market for the future

According to Bernd Liepert, we will in the near future find robots and devices with robotic functions employed almost everywhere. Robots will naturally interact with people both physically and cognitively based on advanced communication and information processing – in all areas of our lives. For Bernd Liepert robotics will be a key element for dealing with societal challenges like the ageing of society, the creation and retention of equal opportunity and high-quality employment, protection against external and internal threats to security and for keeping manufacturing and production in Europe. It is through robotics and automation that companies can compensate the competitive disadvantage of higher labour costs in Europe.

European robotics – almost as strong as before the crisis

The year 2010 was a very good year for the European robotics industry. According to the IFR Statistical Department, about 30,000 industrial robots were sold in Europe, 45 percent more than in 2009. This is still about 15 percent lower than the peak levels of 2007 and 2008, but Europe is catching up. Europe has a global industrial robotics market share of approximately 30 percent. In 2010, more than 115,000 industrial robots were sold world wide. The automotive industry is going to broaden its product portfolio which will require new manufacturing lines. The application of robots in other industries, i.e. the chemical, electronics, food and mechanical engineering industries will further increase. Ola Svanström, Head of Product Management at ABB’s Business Unit Robotics, foresees a growing demand in alternative energy sources and an increased willingness to invest within this area. “This will likely increase the rate of robot installations, e.g. in the production of solar cells and wind turbines”, says Ola Svanström. Improvements in safety, flexibility and usability of robots will further facilitate access to new markets.

The European Robotics Forum 2011 – a success story

More than 340 European robotic researchers from industry and academia have followed the invitation of European Robotics Technology Platform (EUROP) and European Robotics Research Network (EURON) to participate in the European Robotics Forum in Västerås. For the second time, the two European robotics sister networks have organised their annual meetings together. The huge number of participants confirms the decision of EUROP and EURON to join forces and grow together. “The Who-is-Who of European robotics has come to the Forum which has become the biggest think tank for robotics in Europe”, says Herman Bruyninckx. He sees the reason for the success in the Forum’s format. Most of the 42 workshops of the Forum have been proposed and organised by the members of the European robotics community itself. “Everybody is eager to show the latest results of research and discuss where it leads”, states Herman Bruyninckx.

High level of public funding

The European Commission spent €536 million in the period 2007-2012 for cognitive and robotics-related research, bringing it into a leadership position. This funding is gratefully acknowledged by the European robotics community. Finishing the event Bernd Liepert and Herman Bruyninckx both agree that now the time is ripe to significantly accelerate innovation by strengthening the ties between academia and industry and by making public funding available for testing and validating the excellent research results in industrial settings.

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