Robots are here to stay. It’s estimated that the global market for service and industrial robots will reach almost 60 billion dollars by 2020. In 2013, robotics was identified by the British government as one of ‘eight great technologies’ which would propel the UK’s future growth. With this in mind, encouraging British leadership in the field of robotics is a key concern for both the government and businesses.
Rise of the machines
Robotics are already having a huge impact on our economy. While we’re familiar with robots in factories, on and above the battlefield, or exploring the solar system, new machines are constantly being developed for all kinds of applications. A pair of robots are now being trialled on live gas mains in London, with one inspecting the pipes for corrosion, stress and wall thickness, while the other repairs damage with sealant. Researchers in the UK are also working on affordable robotic hands and prosthetic limbs, making use of 3D printing to drive down costs.
The UK is actually considered to be a fast adaptor of robotics technology. In manufacturing in particular, high wage economies like the UK, USA and Japan are looking to automation to reduce their manufacturing costs and increase their competitiveness. But the UK doesn’t just want to automate its industry, it wants to pioneer and sell the technology itself rather than rely upon buying it from abroad.
This year the government predicted that Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) would have a global economic impact of $1.9 to $6.4 trillion by 2025, and could increase the UK’s manufacturing capability by a fifth. The British government wants to capitalise on this opportunity and hopes that by 2025 British companies will hold 10% of the global market in robotics, potentially massively boosting productivity and exports, and helping to reduce the UK’s chronic trade deficit.
Inspiring the next generation
With this in mind, the UK is set to hold its first ever Robotics Week, from the 25th of June to the 1st of July next year. This will be backed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Royal Academy of Engineering and IET. One of the key initiatives will be The School Robot Challenge, with children aged 4-17 invited to submit essays and artwork based on bio-inspired robots. Students will also get to design and build their own robotic bugs with the aid of 3D-printing and robotics kits.
The week will also host the finals of several international academic competitions in everything from unmanned aerial vehicles to surgical robots. It is hoped that UK Robotics Week, which is aiming to become an annual event, will promote STEM subjects to students and help bridge the skills gap. According to Professor Dame Ann Dowling, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, “The UK needs to recruit over a million engineers over the next decade to deliver the technology solutions that will drive economic growth and transform our quality of life.” Encouraging young people to study science and engineering will be crucial to this, so the government is banking upon initiatives like Robotics Week to inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Are you ready for robots?
Whatever your engineering discipline, it’s likely you’ll be working with robots either now or in the near future. It’s also likely that we could have a great opportunity for you! If you’re considering a new engineering challenge, check out our jobs page today.