UK research into the development of smart machines that think for themselves received a £16 million boost today thanks to a major partnership between the government and an industrial consortium that includes SCISYS. This research includes safe ways of monitoring in dangerous environments such as deep sea installations and nuclear power plants, ‘nursebots’ that assist patients in hospitals, and aerial vehicles that can monitor national borders or detect pollution.
Speaking at the official opening of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England, Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, announced the funding for 22 exciting university-based research projects in the UK. Led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and an eight-strong group of partners that includes SCISYS, the investment has over £4M in support from industry. This will include access to specialist laboratories, equipment, expertise and advice on commercialisation and industrialisation. The partners are BAE Systems, Schlumberger, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Sellafield, Network Rail, SCISYS, DSTL and the UK Space Agency.
Autonomous and intelligent systems are capable of independent action in dynamic, unpredictable environments. They interact with each other and humans, using sensors to learn from their environment, adapting their behaviour and making choices based on their immediate and stored knowledge and experiences. Research and the development of these systems, such as unmanned aircraft, are vital to many major UK companies, emerging industries and SMEs, from advanced manufacturing to oil and gas exploration, nuclear energy to railways and automotive, healthcare to space and defence.
Mr Willetts said: “Autonomous intelligent systems are areas of science in which the UK has world class expertise, but to reap the full benefits for the economy and society we need to get better at applying the technology to industry. This £16 million investment will bring together leaders from the research base and business to develop systems for a range of important sectors, from transport to aerospace.”
Attending the opening of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Roger Ward, Head of Autonomous Systems at SCISYS and a Steering Board Member that will oversee the projects commented “this is excellent news for our community. We regularly work with and appreciate the strengths in UK academia in this area and see our industrial insights as offering a sharper focus to this work so that it can become more commercial. We foresee a variety of markets for this technology encompassing both terrestrial and space marketplaces and will be working hard with our academic and industrial partners in realizing these opportunities”.
For more information contact:
Contact: Chris Lee, SCISYS, email@example.com Tel: 01179 165165
See the SCISYS robotics pages.
Notes to editors:
The SCISYS Group is a leading developer of IT services. We develop robust, real-world application solutions and provide supporting services in a broad spectrum of market sectors including space, utilities, defence, government, communication, business services, media and broadcast and transport. Customers include the Environment Agency, MOD, Thames Water, Astrium, Thales Alenia Space, the European Space Agency, EUMETSAT, the BBC and Deutsche Welle. The group has offices in Chippenham, Bristol and Reading in the UK and in Bochum, Darmstadt and Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany. In the UK the group conducts its business through SCISYS UK Ltd, in Germany through SCISYS Deutschland GmbH.
Examples of the project work to be funded:
Building vehicles with legs
The University of Bristol will look at how visual information is used to adapt to changing terrain and environment by studying how humans behave via head-mounted cameras. This could speed up the development of vision control for land-based vehicles with wheels or legs.
Accessing Hazardous Environments
The University of Oxford will explore how multi-unmanned vehicles can be coordinated to act together to perform different tasks and intelligently navigate without access to aids like GPS. This work can have applications in areas such as remote inspection in hostile environments, autonomous urban driving, defence, logistics, security and space robotics.
Improving Human Autonomous Systems interaction
The University of Bath is to test different models of information gathering, communication and decision-making between humans and autonomous systems with the aim of improving reaction speed, safety and reliability.
The self-drive submarine
Kings College London plan to demonstrate how Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), performing inspection and investigation missions, can cooperate and pool information to achieve success when communications are intermittent and external control restricted, this could apply to space or other hostile environments. The team will focus on finding ways to address uncertainty and changing conditions, how plans can be modified and how sensor data is perceived and interpreted.
Improving Automated, Intelligent maintenance
Cranfield University extends research in novel sensing, e-maintenance systems, and decision-making strategies. The integration of sensor-based in formation in geographically dispersed and less structured environments poses challenges in technology and cost justification which will be addressed for rail, aerospace and industrial applications.
Novel Sensing Networks for Intelligent Monitoring
Newcastle University plan to develop a revolutionary autonomous, intelligent condition/structural health monitoring system with specific applications for railways and Non-Destructive Evaluation for nuclear applications.