A £22.4M worth National Robotarium to open in Edinburgh in 2022

National Robotarium Image credits: National Robotarium

Construction work has begun on the new research facility for robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – National Robotarium at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus. 

£22.4 million worth facility

The £22.4 million worth facility will be the largest and most advanced facility for robotics and AI research in the UK. It will be a centre of excellence for pioneering research and is expected to open in Spring 2022. 

Although research projects led by the National Robotarium have already begun, the new building will specialise in developing robotics for hazardous environments, offshore energy, manufacturing, healthcare, human-robot interaction, assisted living, and agritech.

National Robotarium
Image credits: National Robotarium

Professor Helen Hastie and Professor Yvan Petillot are joint academic leads of the National Robotarium. 

Describing the vision for the new facility, Professor Hastie said:

“As a world-leading facility that will promote entrepreneurship and drive forward early-stage product development, the National Robotarium will play a significant role in supporting the UK’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By drawing upon the world-class talent of the staff at Heriot-Watt and our collaborative partner, the University of Edinburgh, alongside students at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems, the National Robotarium will form a centre of excellence for fundamental research and knowledge exchange to address real-world challenges and industry needs.

“The new building will facilitate a collaborative approach that is at the heart of the National Robotarium’s ethos, helping to accelerate research from laboratory to market and paving the way for the UK to take a leadership role in AI and robotics technology.”

Professor Yvan Petillot added: “The cutting-edge resources provided by the new facility combined with the expertise of our researchers will put us in a highly competitive position to elevate the UK onto the global stage in robotics and AI technologies. Our existing and new students will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge by working on real-world problems through internships and industry-led group projects facilitated by the Robotarium, accelerating their skills as they actively shape the future of the field.

“We hope to inspire subsequent generations about the positive impact of robotics and artificial intelligence, building trust, ethics, and understanding into our research outputs and engaging the public regularly through school visits and open days.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

“The creation of the UK’s first National Robotarium in Edinburgh will place Scotland at the forefront of a technological revolution that is changing the way we work. 

“This exciting new facility, supported by £21 million from the UK Government, will create opportunities for Scotland’s entrepreneurs and innovators, and bring jobs and prosperity to the entire region.

“The UK Government has now committed more than £1.5 billion to City Region and Growth Deals which will help communities to build back better from the pandemic.”

National Robotarium
Image credits: National Robotarium

Collab between Heriot-Watt & Edinburg university

The funding for this project came from the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal. The National Robotarium is a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. 

The 40,000 sq ft building will house three distinct research and development areas, providing bespoke facilities for Robotics & Autonomous Systems (RAS), Human & Robotics Interaction (HRI), and High Precision Manufacturing. 

Amongst the specialist equipment will be dedicated laser labs, an autonomous systems laboratory, and a living lab for trialling technology in a realistic home setting.

Focus on sustainability and energy efficiency

The National Robotarium has an innovative design with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. As a result, in winter, the intelligent façade will provide solar heat and recycle warm air. Further, it will have sustainable urban drainage systems, a solar PV array on the roof, and dedicated charging space for EVs. 

Home to SPRING and other projects

The multi-million-pound centre will be home to numerous research projects aimed at addressing a wide range of global challenges like SPRING (Socially Pertinent Robots in Gerontological Healthcare), and the EPSRC ORCA Hub (Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets).

Also, the National Robotarium will spearhead research into ways to manage trust between humans and autonomous systems, as part of the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) programme.