£5 million boost for next generation robotics technologies as robotics week comes to an end

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Photo of Jo Johnson MP

Jo Johnson MP

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

News from Innovate UK

Science Minister Jo Johnson has announced a £5 million challenge, to encourage UK companies and academics to develop robotic innovations.

The challenge will encourage UK businesses and academic institutions to work together to develop new and novel uses for robotics and autonomous systems across different industry sectors. The competition has been devised by the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Speaking at the end of EPSRC's robotics week the minister said, The UK is a world leader in advanced robotic technologies that promise to transform so many aspects of our lives. Through this £5 million competition we will build UK expertise in robotics and autonomous systems and open up new opportunities for innovative businesses and economic growth.

A recent report by McKinsey ("Disruptive Technologies") predicts that technologies related to RAS as having a potential annual economic impact in 2025 between $9.8-19.3 trillion.

Paul Mason, Director of Emerging and Enabling Technologies at Innovate UK said:

The UK has a healthy eco-system of large and small companies developing future-focussed innovations, often in partnership with universities. Our targeted support for companies working in the sector is already helping SMEs to develop, grow and gain an early advantage in the global marketplace.

As we are a business focused organisation, Innovate UK recognises that there are a number of challenges and risks in developing, integrating and validating technologies and systems in this area. That is why we, along with EPSRC, have developed this competition to target support for the sector. It will de-risk those developments and will ensure that UK companies are well-placed to take a market lead in the development of next generation robotics and more autonomous, 'self-learning' systems.

Many of the challenges which industry faces are common to many industries and so the focus of this competition will be to develop solutions which will solve problems across more than one sector. Areas of focus will include Service Robotics (health, services, IoT etc.); Demanding Environments (off-shore energy, chemicals, O&G); and Mobile Production (agriculture, power distribution, etc.).

The competition will encourage innovators to develop links between the behaviour of the robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) in the physical world and the algorithms & software implementing their interactions, and systems where the machine drives decision-making processes, based on experience, rather than human users or operators

Notes for editors

About Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the UK's innovation agency. We are business focused and drive disruptive innovation right across the UK economy, funding and connecting pioneering businesses so they can create the products, processes and industries of the future. It is our mission to boost productivity, increase exports and help the UK economy grow head and shoulders above other nations. For further information and to stay updated on our latest news visit the Innovate UK website, follow us on Twitter at @innovateuk or subscribe to the Innovate UK YouTube channel.


As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via UK Research and Innovation.

  • The total number of projects, which can be collaborative and led by a small/micro company, is expected to be 18-24.
  • The size of individual funding awards will vary between £50,000 and £250.
  • Projects will be up to 15 months in duration.

Media queries and requests for interview should be made to Rod Alexander at Innovate UK (details below).

Reference: PN 40-16

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Name: Rod Alexander
Organisation: Innovate UK
Telephone: 07500 051101