Robotics, AI gets £68m from Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

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The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) has allocated £68million to support research and innovation in robotics and artificial intelligence systems.

The programme aims to develop robotic solutions to make a safer working environment in industries such as off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining, increase productivity and open up new cross disciplinary opportunities.

Four research Hubs managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will receive £44.5m to support the development of robotic solutions for safer working environments in off-shore energy, nuclear energy and space. These national Hubs will be supported by a further £51.6m from commercial and international partners.

Meanwhile, £16.5m has been allocated to work following a collaborative R&D competition run by Innovate UK, in which more than 70 businesses, 13 universities and 10 research organisations were successful. Alongside this, 17 demonstrator projects will receive £3m following a separate Innovate UK competition.

The funding round is completed with a £4.3m grant to the Natural Environment Research Council, which will fund five research projects at the National Oceanography Centre and the universities of Exeter and Southampton. These projects are intended to develop sensors capable of working in the ocean’s extreme conditions.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC chief executive, said: “These new Robotics Hubs will draw on the country’s research talent to nurture new developments in the field of robotics and provide the foundations on which innovative technologies can be built. The resulting outcomes from this research will allow us to explore environments that are too dangerous for humans to enter without risking injury or ill-health. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is helping us achieve a joined up approach to research, discovery and innovation.”

The four national hubs are the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics, receiving £11.3m, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Nuclear (£11.9m), Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (£14.3m) and Future AI and Robotics for Space (£6.7m).