Heriot-Watt project wins 2018 Guardian University Award



A project from Heriot-Watt University has won the Business Collaboration category at the prestigious Guardian University Awards 2018.

The Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) Hub brings together five leading academic institutions and over 30 industrial and innovation partners in a collaborative project on an unprecedented scale.

The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, leads the project to advance robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies for the inspection, repair, maintenance and certification of offshore energy platforms and assets.

ORCA is enhancing the feasibility of large-scale monitoring of subsea assets such as cables, seabed structures and marine energy devices. The offshore energy industry, at all points of the supply and delivery chain, both subsea or topside, can now access globally-leading research that is conducted specifically to solve the industry's existing and emerging challenges.

Professor David Lane from Heriot-Watt University, is the director of the ORCA Hub. Commenting on the award, he said: “The international offshore energy industry faces many challenges, including near-permanent low oil prices, expensive decommissioning commitments of old infrastructure, particularly in the North Sea, and small margins on the traded commodity price per KWh of offshore renewable energy. Coupled to this, the offshore workforce is ageing as the new generation of qualified graduates seek less hazardous onshore opportunities.

“The goal is to develop shore-operated autonomous and semi-autonomous solutions for inspection, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore energy infrastructure using marine, terrestrial and airborne robotic systems.

“The ORCA Hub's activities are designed to lead advancement in key robotics and A.I. technologies that will create a step change in the current practices of offshore inspection, repair and maintenance. Ours will be the largest academic centre in the world for research into offshore asset robotics technology.”

In the Research Impact category, Heriot-Watt project 'Establishing the Edinburgh super-resolution imaging consortium (ESRIC)' was also shortlist / highly commended for its interdisciplinary approach to addressing global health challenges. Founded to accelerate discovery, encourage international collaboration and inspire future generations, ESRIC's results already include a new diagnostic for cataract, a major cause of blindness globally, an internationally renowned summer school and outreach work spanning more than 9,000 teachers, pupils and members of the public.