September 19, 2012      

European Commision (EC) vice president, Neelie Kroes, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with European robotics manufacturers and research institutes on September 18 to launch a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for the advancement of European robotics.

The PPP in Robotics is intended to seize a larger piece of the global robotics market by pooling the participants? research and innovation efforts to increase commercial opportunity and solve social problems with robots.

“A strong robotics industry is key to Europe’s future competitiveness. Growing our robotics industry means new jobs and a strong European manufacturing sector,” said Kroes.

The EC valued the global demand for robot and robot-related products at over $20 billion in 2010, with around a fifth of that market existing in Europe. According to the EC, three million jobs are created or maintained worldwide as a result of using one million industrial robots, and the organization remains optimistic about public acceptance of robots, leaning heavily on a new Eurobarometer survey that claims more than 70% of EU citizens believe that robots are good for society.

Focus will remain, in large part, on increasing Europe?s 50% market share in professional service robotics. The EC is betting on 40% growth in that sector over the next few years with the strongest increases in rescue, security and professional cleaning applications. You can view EU-funded robotics projects here.

The partnership is intended to develop globally competitive robotic technologies, connect robotics developers with end users in existing and new markets, promote robotics to the public and address the ethical and legal issues surrounding robotic development.

The private partners involved will develop a solid proposal including functional methods that the Commission can examine and endorse before the 2013 deadline.

Europe?s Public-Private Partnership is the latest part of the EC?s continuing Digital Agenda. Although there is no news yet about how much budget will be allocated to the PPP initiative, the Digital Agenda has spent about $784 million in robotics research specifically from 2007 to 2013, with a pledge of funding in the billions to support robotics from 2013 to 2020.

Comparatively, President Obama pledged $70 million in government money to support the development of robotics research over the next five years via the U.S. National Robotics Initiative.

Among those supporting the EC partnership are large companies including Siemens; SMEs; higher education institutions including Eindhoven University and the University of the West of England’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory; and research bodies such as the Fraunhofer Institute of Manufacturing, Engineering and Automation.