The government has set up a £1m funding competition for robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) technology in the UK.
The investment by the Technology Strategy Board is for feasibility studies to accelerate the development of RAS concepts where robots are able to interact with each other and humans.
It is hoped that the results could lead to greater commercialization of technology in sectors such as aerospace, defense, transport, health, consumer goods and manufacturing.
?This is an exciting technology area that could make a real difference to a range of sectors such as high value manufacturing and agriculture,? said Universities and Science Minister David Willetts.
?We are in a global race to develop new innovations and this competition will give researchers the freedom to explore early-stage ideas which can be demonstrated to potential investors and turned into commercially successful products,? said Willetts.
Autonomous systems are being used in areas such as deep sea exploration, the maintenance of oil and gas facilities and space exploration.
Related technology areas include software engineering, human-machine interaction, modelling and simulation, wireless communications, as well as microprocessor-based hardware.
It is also hoped the competition will help research projects to attract investment from new funding mechanisms such as Horizon 2020, the EU?s new program for research and innovation, aimed at creating new jobs and growth in Europe.
The program will run from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of ?80bn.
The Technology Strategy Board funding is for projects that develop early-stage and novel concepts to address identifiable challenges and mitigate risks.
All projects must be collaborative and led by an SME. They will last up to 12 months and each grant is envisaged to be up to £133,000, although projects outside this range will be considered.
The competition opens on 4 February 2013.