Robotics competition, coordination and support
The global robotics market will change shape significantly in the next few years. As the deployment of robotics technology increases, it is necessary to ensure that robotics actions are flanked by specific measures to optimise market take-up of European research whilst the window is still open.
There are several challenges including the lack of sustained exchanges about robotics between members of the widespread European stakeholders' community and of coordinated European effort towards global standardisation and regulation. There is also a lack of systematic foresight of developing trends and issues to inform strategy-makers and the robotics community e.g. as relating to a pro-active approach of ethical, legal and socio-economic (ELSE) issues. Understanding and responding to developments in these areas will require engagement with non-robotics experts able to analyse impact within their area of expertise. Robotics-specific strategy can then be developed from this analysis and used to shape the processes of design, development and deployment of market services and applications.
It is also important to disseminate information not only to the robotics community but also externally to those users and organisations impacted by robotics technology. Furthermore it is important to identify and assess socio-economic weaknesses and threats in the European robotics landscape. These will change over time and long term monitoring actions will be critical to the development of a responsive strategy.
Potential issues range from the development of supportive and effective regulatory environments to assessing the public perception of robotics and its socio-economic impact, as well as the underlying imaginaries (e.g. pre-conceptions helping to envisage the future) of robotics developers. Broader technology impact issues such as data privacy, legal rights, liability, responsible innovation and ethical issues concerning vulnerable sections of society will also need to be addressed.
An intense user-engagement in the developments of robots designed to perform social tasks, and a wide public debate around the issues and concerns that these developments may raise are key conditions to ensure a societal and socio-economic uptake of robotic technology in an informed way and to enhance market and community development.
Competitions on smart robotics can also play an important role in increasing the levels of public understanding, as well as helping to accelerate progress in a stimulating way.
Coordination and Support Actions focusing on one or more of the following topic areas and taking into account ongoing actions:
a. Non-technical barriers to robotics take-up:
- Promotion of entrepreneurship skills specific to robotics and the provision of non-technical early stage support for SMEs and spinouts. Analysis of funding mechanisms, including follow-on funding support for take-up of research results and the effectiveness of public funding;
- Addressing non-technical market barriers in a pro-active way such as ethical, legal and socio-economic issues affecting take-up, including the impact of robotics on the labour market, ethical concerns about safety, informed consent, clear legal responsibility and insurance structures. The engagement and coordination with non-robotics experts, for example in law, social sciences and economics, will be sought;
- The effective promotion of responsible research and innovation (RRI) in robotics and the assessment of societal readiness for robotics products;
- Given the fast-moving evolution of RAS research and innovation, develop dynamic strategies to anticipate new skills requirements, reduce skills shortage and provide responses to economic change through training, skills development, and education from pre-school to university level.
b. Standards and Regulation:
- Coordination of standards harmonisation and regulation across Europe in all domains to enable the development of supply chains and certification processes;
- Dialogue with regulatory bodies and policy makers to support the market entry of robotics and raise awareness of the impact of robotics.
c. Community support and outreach:
- New mechanisms to improve information exchange across the diverse sections of the European robotics community (including networking between EC projects), to provide open access resources, for example brokerage for design information, communicating the outcomes of EC-funded research projects and to improve the public level of understanding and societal uptake of robotics through two-way public engagement activities.
- Organisation of robotic competitions to speed up the advance towards smarter robots, demonstrating progress in the field and raising the awareness of the general public towards intelligent robots.
The Commission considers that Coordination and Support Actions proposals covering all or an appropriate mix of topic areas (a), (b) or (c) above are expected to require up to EUR 3 million; nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Minimum one action will be selected. Competition proposals addressing topic area (d) are expected to require up to EUR 2 million each; nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Minimum one action will be selected.
- Strengthen collaboration between diverse robotics communities;
- Gain a higher level of European involvement in global robotics regulatory policy and standard-making;
- Lower non-technical market barriers to robotics market readiness and take-up; increase the uptake by entrepreneurs and end users through e.g. skills acquisition and training;
- Clearer understanding by the community and non-technical experts of the impact of robotics technology through two-way engagement, which helps to better inform related strategy and policy decision-making;
- Significant and measurable evolution in the public awareness and understanding of robots, especially amongst broad demographic groups, as shown by surveys, greater media coverage and increased take up of robotic products in domestic applications;
- Increase public and private investment interest in robotics technology for all stages of company formation and growth, from start-up to mature company, as measured by levels of grant and investment activity by national, regional or private-sector bodies.