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Rovereto - for a Few Days "City of Robots"
- European Robotics Forum 2014 sets records
- First Forum on Robotics under new Public-Private Partnership with European Commission
The small Northern Italian town of Rovereto, located beautifully in the Adige valley of the Trentino Region, became for a few days the capital of European robotics, dominated by the European Robotics Forum (ERF) 2014. A record number of 485 experts from academia, industry, politics and business, met between 12 and 14 March to showcase the latest robotic systems and to discuss applications of robots and current research developments. This year's Forum which was given the motto
"City of Robots", was the fifth edition in a row since the first one in San Sebastian in 2010. It made clear in various workshops, exhibitions, and open discussions, what enormous potential for robotics lies within the European economy.
In their opening speeches, both Khalil Rouhana, the Director responsible for the robotics programme in the European Commission's DG CONNECT, and Bernd Liepert, President of euRobotics AISBL, the association which is the organiser of the annual fora, pointed out that the robotics sector can look back on a rapid development in recent years. The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) on Robotics which was set up a few months ago, aiming at real applications in industry and services, however, will accelerate this process significantly within Europe in the coming years.
The PPP on Robotics operates under Horizon 2020, the Commission's new R&D programme, and is the largest robotics research and innovation initiative world-wide. Until 2020, the European Commission will contribute 700 M EUR, with European industry having dedicated three times as much on top of that. The results in terms of creating economic stimuli for Europe, however, are expected to be more than 10 to 20 times higher.
In comparison with previous Framework Programmes of the European Commission, Horizon 2020 provides significant revisions. Many instruments are designed to promote innovation and technology transfer towards concrete applications for industrial and social needs, and to encourage the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises in the innovation and research process. Moreover, the PPP on Robotics within Horizon 2020 is based on a roadmap which is developed annually and updated by the private partner, euRobotics AISBL, representing the European robotics community. This shortcut between the Commission and the European community allows for a much higher efficiency between the actors and the financial contributors, to meet the challenging aims this PPP has set.
Small and medium-sized enterprises play an important role in robotics. The integration of small and medium-sized enterprises in the value chain allows very often for innovative solutions. But it also opens up the chance for development of robotic systems, which are adapted to the needs of small and flexible company structures. This creates not only new solutions to improve production processes, but also a new market potential for SMEs themselves.
The European robotics community is certain that a penetration of robots in many areas of economy and society's life will become a real fact in the future. Robots will be even more strongly integrated into the production process of the manufacturing industry - but we will observe a new brand, programmed for flexibility and cooperating with human workers. And in the non-industrial sectors, service robots will become ubiquitous in many dangerous, difficult, or dull applications, from unmanned aircraft for inspecting energy networks, to medical robots providing precision surgery, or new solutions in logistics and agriculture.
euRobotics AISBL, which was founded in September 2012 with 35 members as a non-for-profit association in Brussels, enjoys a rapid growth and has currently 172 members from 22 countries within the EU. The association is contractual partner of the European Commission in the PPP on robotics and consists of research institutions, companies and national associations. euRobotics AISBL not only develops the roadmap as the basis for the Commission's funding programmes in robotics, but also promotes and coordinates synergies and organises the annual European Robotics Forum, and thus makes an important contribution within the European robotics community.
The annual European Robotics Fora are very popular because of their focus on debate and discussions, rather than academic presentations which are to be added to the speakers' CV. This year's European Robotics Forum in Rovereto attracted 485 participants, the highest number of participants so far. With 6 parallel tracks and more than 45 sessions, this event has clearly almost doubled the number of participants from previous events.
Particular highlights are always the Robotics Entrepreneurship workshop for coaching start-ups and awarding the best business ideas in robotics, the George-Giralt PhD award, and the Technology Transfer Awards.
This year’s winners are:
First Prize: Ignacio González Alonso – “RoboCONE”;
Second Prize: Elena García Armada – “Wearable lower-limb exoskeletons”;
Third Prize: Patrick Thévoz and Adrien Briod – “Gimball - Unmanned flying robots”;
Finalists: Ioannis Markopoulos – “The 01™ SuperModified combo of miniature PCB”;
Thomas Estier – “Agile wheeled rover”.
George Giralt PhD Awards:
Fabien Expert - “Flying robot inspired by insects: From optic flow sensing to visually guided strategies to control a Micro Aerial Vehicle”;
Manuel Giuseppe Catalano - “Soft Robotics: Design for Simplicity, Performance, and Robustness of Robots for Interaction with Humans”;
Rainer Jaekel - “Learning of Generalized Manipulation Strategies in Service Robotics”.
Tech Transfer Award (sponsored by EUnited Robotics members):
First Prize: "Float - Free Levitation for Overground Active Training" - joint cooperation between Lutz Medical Engineering, ETH Zurich, and Balgrist University Hospital
Second Prize: "Efficient Implementation of Iterative Inverse Kinematics in Real Time Control Architecture" - joint cooperation of Comau Robotics and Politecnico di Torino
Finalists: "Bayesian Perception and Decision: From Theory to Industrial applications" - Joint cooperation between INRIA, CNRS, and ProbaYes "TeleFlex: the Future of Robotic Flexible Endoscopy" - joint cooperation between Demcon, Meander Medical Center, University of Twente "Volumental - Research Driven Scanning for Everyone" - joint cooperation of Volumental and KTH
Next European Robotics Forum will take place in Vienna in March 2015.
Local arrangements of this year’s Forum are to be acknowledged to Professor Paolo Fiorini, University of Verona, and the City of Rovereto.
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