Robots are doing it for themselves

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Industrialists, academics and students gathered in Edinburgh this week to launch a new Centre aimed at developing robots which can act independently and which could revolutionise society in the next twenty years. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are major funders. 

The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics is a joint venture by Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. It involves two main elements, the Robotarium, a state-of-the-art equipment facility for research and knowledge exchange, and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. In total, the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics is supported by over 40 industrial partners.

The Centre will be working in crucial market sectors including oil and gas, defence, renewable energy, healthcare, assisted living, transport, space, automotive, manufacturing, nuclear, digital media and education. 

Professor David Lane, Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Professor of Autonomous Systems Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, said, "Robots acting independently of human control, robots which can learn, adapt and take decisions, will revolutionise our economy and society over the next 20 years. 

"They will work for us, beside us, assist us and interact with us. It is estimated that by 2025 such advanced robotic and autonomous systems could have a worldwide economic impact of $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion annually, with an emerging market value of €15.5 billion.

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, co-Director of the Centre and Professor of Robotics at the University of Edinburgh, added that "The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics aims to help the country realise its industrial potential in this revolution by producing a new generation of highly skilled researchers, trained to take a leading role, technically skilled, industry and market aware, and prepared to create and lead the UK's innovation pipeline for jobs and growth."

Professor Philip Nelson FREng, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said, "By supporting the training of new academic talent and providing the right environment and tools needed to drive progress in this exciting field, EPSRC, and our industrial partners, are helping Robotics and Autonomous Systems to flourish and deliver the benefits it promises as one of the eight great technologies."

Universities and Science Minister Greg Clark said, "Fantastic centres like this show how our world-class universities are helping to secure economic growth. 

"The Government funding will help bridge the gap between research and production. Not only does this help keep Britain at the forefront of international research, but it lays the foundations for high-tech job creation across the UK."

For further information, please contact:

For Heriot-Watt enquiries:

  • Caroline Dempster, Press Officer, Heriot-Watt University (Tel: 0131 451 3443)

For University of Edinburgh enquiries:

  • Dr Steve Ewing, Senior Business Development Executive, University of Edinburgh (Tel: 07886 354049)


The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics harnesses the potential of 30 world leading investigators from 12 cross disciplinary research groups and Institutes across the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences and The Department of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University and the Schools of Informatics and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.

The Centre's research focuses on the interactions amongst robots, people, environments and autonomous systems, designed and integrated for different applications, scales and modalities. We aim to apply fundamental theoretical methods to real-world problems on real robots solving pressing commercial and societal needs.

The Robotarium was funded with £7.2 million from the EPSRC and industry capital.

The Centre also offers a four-year PhD programme through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. An individually tailored MRes course and project portfolio provides a strong general grounding in current theory, methods and applications, followed by three years of specialised PhD research with additional training in creativity, ethics and enterprise skills. 

The CDT was funded by £5.7 million from the EPSRC and by £9 million in cash and in-kind contributions from almost 30 industry supporters.

Reference: PN 69-14