EC doubles robotics R&D investment

The Commission has promised €400m for robotics research to help European manufacturing compete with developing countries
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The European Commission has announced it is to double the amount of funding given over to robotics research and development.

Between 2008 and 2010 the Commission will provide almost €400m (£316m) to support European robotics research, it stated on Wednesday. European robotics research received €100m in 2007.

"There is a clear window of opportunity for automation industries in Europe — in particular robotics — not just to maintain leadership, but to grow further and to move higher up the value chain," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

Research areas to be granted funding will primarily be industrial robotics, which the Commission hopes will enable manufacturing to continue in higher wage countries, and be able to compete with Asia. The International Federation of Robotics estimates that the current world market for industrial robots at €4bn and forecasts a 4.2 percent increase per year until 2010.

"Robotics is strategic for Europe's future competitiveness," stated the Commission. "Manufacturing will only be maintained in higher-wage regions such as Europe through automation."

Research into service robots will also be included in the funding increase. Functions for service robots include agriculture, medicine, goods distribution and menial tasks.

The programme aims to strengthen links between academia and industry, and there are plans to fund widespread robotics experimentation by academic researchers and industry, stated the Commission.

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