The University of Manchester has teamed up with US-based engineering firm Jacobs to explore the role robotics and autonomous systems can play in delivering net-zero goals.
The Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments (CRADLE) will research new technologies for demanding and heavily regulated industry sectors such as space, nuclear decommissioning, and urban infrastructure.
It will aim to find advances such as autonomous inspection and repair systems to extend the life of water and energy networks, roads, bridges and railways, which will support the work toward net-zero targets.
The center will be co-funded to a total value of $11m (£8.75m) over five years by The University of Manchester, American international engineering company Jacobs, and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Prosperity Partnerships program.
Further contributions are expected to bring the total to £10m.
Professor Barry Lennox, the University of Manchester’s Centre for Robotics and AI co-director, said: “CRADLE provides the University of Manchester’s recently established Centre for Robotics and AI with the opportunity to build a relationship with one of the leading organisations involved in applied robotics, helping us to progress our fundamental research in this area and enabling us deliver impact from the robotic and AI systems that we are developing.”
CRADLE’s research remit covers mechatronics, software, and how communities and regulators will engage with future robotic systems.
The University of Manchester will support 12 PhD students in conducting research and performing prototype demonstrations in its Electrical Engineering & Electronics and Computer Science departments, the Manchester Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Centre, and at Jacobs’ robotics laboratories in Warrington.
Karen Wiemelt, Security & Technology senior vice-president at Jacobs Energy, said: “Securing this prestigious Prosperity Partnerships grant allows Jacobs and The University of Manchester to research the autonomous systems that industry needs to solve today’s challenges and create a more connected and sustainable world.
“Robotics is already a core strength of Jacobs’ work in the energy and space sectors, and this research collaboration will enable us to develop advanced technologies to help achieve net-zero targets.”
Dr Andrew Bourne, director of Partnerships at EPSRC, added: “Prosperity Partnerships demonstrate how business and academia can come together to co-create and co-deliver research and innovation that address industry-driven challenges and deliver economic and societal impact.
“These new projects showcase the breadth of research and innovation in the UK, covering a wider range of sectors, and support the UK’s ambitions to be a science superpower and an innovation nation.”
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