“We have an innovation emergency in Europe and Horizon 2020 is our response to that emergency.”
?MAire Geoghegan-Quinn, EC Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
Old World begets New World of robotics?
At night on the wharf at Porto Antico the stars are out; Bootes and Ursa Major are saying it?s spring. A sense of change is in the air, which if positive, no matter how small, would be welcome news to the beleaguered Eurozone economy.
MAire Geoghegan-Quinn, the EC?s Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, yearns for a new Europe where a breakout of high-tech innovation might deliver great products for commercialization that, in turn, might reinvigorate the local job scene and better society.
Nearby is the Conference Center at Porto Antico?s Magazzini del Cotone where RoboBusiness Europe 2013 is taking place. In microcosm, this conference may well point the way toward a sizeable chunk of Europe?s salvation?robotics.
RoboBusiness Europe is billed as ?a high-level, two-day robotics business event geared around bringing robotics to market: how-to tactics, financing, building partnerships, marketplace strategies and commercializations. It?s all about how to create advantage and how to be a success.? RoboBusiness Europe is surely all that, but it?s also something even more important.
Europe could well be poised to make high-tech history by pulling off the big bang in robotics, something robotics itself has been waiting for someone to do for over sixty years. By the look of what the EU has been doing for the past seven years with its 7th Framework, a critical mass of robotics technology is now in place and ready for ignition.
The great getting ready
Just to make sure all goes well, the EU has cut red tape, prepped industry to ready itself, and has tossed in a whopping ?80B ($107B) in funding. Of the 7th Framework?s budget of ?53B ($69B), ?600M ($774M) was earmarked for robotics alone. If Horizon 2020 similarly apportions out funds, robotics would benefit to the tune of ?800M ($1.03B) to carry the commercialization and integration processes of robotics into industry and society from 2014 to the program?s conclusion in 2020.
As such, RoboBusiness Europe 2013 is a prelude to what is coming a few short months up the road, namely, Horizon 2020 when it kicks off on January 1, 2014.
Prelude to the big bang
With more than forty speakers from all over Europe presenting on topics ranging from industry, commerce and agriculture, surgical and healthcare, individual robotics, emergency response and dangerous environments, plus robot sub-systems, components and operating software, the RoboBusiness audience is due for an insightful look-see into just what it is that Europe has in readiness for Horizon 2020.
It takes more than money
Between the broad strokes of the RoboBusiness agenda is the grist that is the real strength of
the EU?s efforts to pull off a big bang in robotics: the infrastructure building, industry partnerships, the technical competencies, critical organizational thinking, communications systems and networking linkage throughout the EU robotics community, both academic and industry. That expertise and capability the Europeans have been building for more than a decade.
Much of it will be on display at RoboBusiness through the two-days of individual speakers, most of whom have been participants since the beginning or at least since the 7th Framework began in 2006.
It is more than just millions and millions of blind euros that the EU has been pouring into robotics. They’ve been pouring themselves into it?human capital?and pulling in along with themselves any other organization, business or individual that in any way could impact the outcome of robotics in Europe:
EURON?The European Robotics Research Network, which is a community of people with a common interest: robots. Its purpose is to bring together the best groups and resources in research, industry and education in Europe.
EUROP?The European Robotics Technology Platform, which is an industry-driven framework for stakeholders in robotics to strengthen Europe?s competitiveness in robotic R&D, as well as global markets, and to improve quality of life.
ECHORD?The European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development, which was (until February 2013) an EU-funded project within the 7th Framework Program, aiming to strengthen the cooperation between scientific research and industry in European robotics.
ECHORD (video catalog of robotics projects)
PPP?The European Robotics Public Private Partnership, which is the teaming up of the robotics industry, research, academia and the European Commission to launch a joint research, development and innovation program.
Then there?s the intangible?leadership
RoboBusiness Europe also has in residence for its two-day event the leader of the EU?s Horizon 2020 project, Dr. Libor Kral. Interestingly, the EU has centralized this de-centralized network of technology expertise and financial oomph into the hands of Dr. Kral, who is the Head of Robotics unit in DG CONNECT, the highest-level robotics unit in the European Commission.
From July 2008 to June 2012, Dr. Kral led DG INFSO?s Cognitive Systems, Interaction and Robotics Unit, and from June 2007 to June 2008 he headed DG INFSO?s Interaction & Interfaces unit.
In an interview with Robotics Business Review in February (2013) that ranges across many of the topics that will feature in his RoboBusiness Europe keynote, Dr. Kral shared his insights regarding some of the challenges facing commercial robotics and how the EU?s European Commission plans to provide the sector with the best opportunity to succeed.
The space between the stars
The constellations above Porto Antico are announcing the onset of springtime, but they may also be aligning to herald Europe’s finest hour in technology. In the end however, Shakespeare said it well: ?It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.? The world awaits. For this American in Genoa on the eve of RoboBusiness Europe, I think that the Europeans got it right.
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