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Construction Begins on National Robotarium R&D Centre

Ross Kelly

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National Robotarium

Construction has begun on Scotland’s National Robotarium, a world-leading research facility for robotics and artificial intelligence.

Based at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, the National Robotarium is supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4m from the Scottish Government as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

The centre, which will be the largest and most advanced of its type in the UK, is set to open in spring 2022. The Robotarium will create innovative solutions to global challenges using cutting-edge research, product design and industry collaboration.

Bringing together academics and global companies, the facility will provide a catalyst for entrepreneurship and is expected to deliver sustainable economic benefit to Edinburgh, the UK and beyond.

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity said: “Across Scotland we have so far committed more than £1.9 billion over the next 10 to 20 years to City Region and Growth Deals and additional investments.

“We are investing £300 million over 15 years to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal across transport, housing, culture, innovation and skills as we work towards a fairer and more inclusive economy.”

“It’s great to see construction now beginning on the National Robotarium. This project will ensure that innovation can play an intrinsic part in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”

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.”

National Robotarium

Although research projects led by the National Robotarium have already begun, the new building will provide extensive world-class facilities for researchers and knowledge exchange.

Key areas of research application will include hazardous environments, offshore energy, manufacturing, healthcare, human-robot interaction, assisted living and agritech.

The 40,000ft ² 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.

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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.

The building will also include a ‘partner suite’ dedicated to industry, academic and government collaboration and place a strong focus on sustainability and energy efficiency.

In winter, the intelligent façade will provide solar heat and recycle warm air. An ecological zone will integrate sustainable urban drainage systems, while a solar PV array will be installed on the roof.

EV charging spaces will also be available. To support the facility’s commitment to public engagement activities, linear grazing luminaire technology and an exterior projector will project graphics onto the façade.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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