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Government to Invest in Robotics and AI Projects

Government to Invest in Robotics and AI Projects
02 June 2021

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy is to invest in 38 business-led projects to accelerate their robotics and AI technologies.

Such projects include the world’s first remotely operated offshore search and rescue service, a paint applicator robot and an automated drone system that will load and unload its own cargo.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway announced the winning projects that are located across the UK.  The funding forms part of the government’s commitment to invest in ground-breaking research and raise economy-wide investment in research and development to 2.4 per cent by 2027.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: "We are throwing our weight behind the most transformative technologies because innovation is at the very core of our plans to build back better from the pandemic, drive productivity and grow the economy.

"From a first of its kind automated rescue service for UK offshore energy workers, to drone technology delivering for our NHS, these robotics technologies could be game changing as part of our continued efforts to tackle global challenges – from pandemic preparedness to climate change – all while cementing the UK’s status as a science superpower."


Offshore Survival Systems, Cargo Drones and Wall-Climbing Painting Robots


Offshore Survival Systems in Edinburgh is being backed to develop a first of its kind search and rescue service which will use a network of semi-autonomous unmanned rescue vessels (URVs) to save lives at sea. It will be aimed primarily at supporting UK workers in the offshore energy industry who must deal with increased wind speeds and wave heights, while working far from shore.

Digital & Future Technologies, an electronics firm in Colchester, Essex, will also receive funding to help NHS and healthcare workers to tackle COVID-19 and future pandemics. The business will be building an automated drone system which will load and unload its own cargo, ensuring that vital healthcare equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE) can be delivered to UK hospitals at speed and without the need for human assistance.

UK offshore wind workers could soon be kept safe using a remotely operated search and rescue service, thanks to a pioneering project backed by £7 million of government support.




Meanwhile, University of Liverpool spin-out Mobotix will use its funding to develop an automated back-up lab, which can be operated remotely. This lab will mean that pioneering research can be done during periods of lockdown or social distancing, without risk of infection. The project will help build operational resilience for the UK’s leading life sciences laboratories so that they can maintain the scientific excellence demonstrated in combating COVID-19 over the past year.


Other projects receiving grant funding include:

  • Motion Robotics in Southampton, developing a smart drone pad control centre to deal with a future increase in levels of drone transport for healthcare. The control centre will help coordinate drone flights between hospitals and suppliers or laboratories, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted supply chain.
  • Crover Ltd, an Edinburgh based technology company developing the world’s first small robotic device that can ‘swim’ through grains stored in bulk, for example, wheat and barley, highlighting their condition and identifying grain spoilage. This will enable farmers to intervene at an early stage, reduce wastage and protect their revenues.
  • HausBots Limited, a Birmingham based small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), developing a wall-climbing robot that paints and protects walls from damp. Painting is the 5th most dangerous job in the UK, with painters at risk of accidents and health conditions, including repetitive strain injury. This project aims to deliver safety and productivity to painters, contractors and clients, in a cost-effective way.


This investment in robotics and AI is being delivered through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Robots for a Safer World Challenge, a £112 million programme to develop research and innovation in advanced robotics and autonomous systems.

Picture: a photograph of a robotic hand

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 02 June 2021


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