Ever since George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, singled out robotics and autonomous technologies as one of the “eight great technologies” of the future, hopes have been high that there will be a period of sustained U.K. robotics investment. But has this rhetoric matched the reality?
At a Japan-U.K. Robotics and AI seminar in London in February, Robin Grimes revealed that the British government will invest some £200 million to £300 million ($282 million to $423 million) in the domestic robotics and automation systems (RAS) sector by 2020. This will mainly be funnelled through organizations such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK, said Grimes, chief scientific adviser to the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a professor of Materials Physics at Imperial College.
However, although these figures sound “superficially impressive,” Chris Middleton, an editor at Strategist magazine, argued that they compare unfavourably at the international level. For example, he pointed out that the Japanese government says it is investing ¥26 trillion ($245 billion) in robotics by 2020, with the aim of creating a “super-smart society.”
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