The National Robotarium is officially open for business!

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National Robotarium
L-R: David Duguid MP, Professor Richard A. Williams and Professor Kim Graham.

The National Robotarium, the UK’s newest centre for robotics and artificial intelligence officially opened its doors, as announced at a special event held in the £22.4m facility on 28 September.

Located on Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, it will be the largest and most advanced applied research facility for robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the UK, creating an innovation hub for the practical application of robotics and autonomous systems.

The special opening event gathered leading figures from government, industry, research and the robotics community for networking, talks and a tour of the multimillion-pound, purpose-built facilities, central to the development and testing of robotics and AI solutions across three distinct areas; Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), Human and Robot Interaction (HRI) and High-Precision Manufacturing.

Officially opening the facility was Sir John McCanny CBE, Regius Professor Emeritus of Electronics and Computer Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, and Chair of the National Robotarium Independent Advisory Board.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, Professor Richard A. Williams, Provost and Head of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Kim Graham, co-academic lead at the National Robotarium, Professor Helen Hastie and Chief Executive Officer at the National Robotarium, Stewart Miller.

An exciting new partnership between the National Robotarium and Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest multinational business group, was also announced at the opening by Mr Miller and Head of TCS Scotland, Gopalan Rajagopalan. The two organisations will work together on applied engineering and joint research in areas including soft robotics, field robotics, co-bots and tele-operations in an effort to increase cross-industry collaboration and accelerate the development of robotic solutions from laboratory to market.

As part of the event, guests were able to experience the some of the state-of-the-art robotic technology that has been installed at the National Robotarium to explore how robots can be used to help different sectors, such as healthcare, construction, manufacturing and offshore energy, work more safely and efficiently.

Demonstrations on the day included socially assistive robots, medical technology for improving cognition, ROVs for underwater 3D mapping and scanning of hazardous environments at sea, companion robots, and a humanoid robot that is being used to better understand the mechanisms and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

Stewart Miller said: “Britain has a long and rich heritage of delivering cutting-edge innovation on the world stage. 

“The opening of this dedicated, state-of-the-art facility is another important milestone in that story and one which I believe demonstrates Scotland and the UK’s role at the forefront of global developments in AI and robotics.”

Permanent Under Secretary of State for Scotland, David Duguid MP, who attended and spoke at the event said: "The National Robotarium - backed by £21 million UK Government funding - showcases the exceptional developments Scotland is making in pioneering research and technology, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators and bringing jobs and prosperity. More than £2 billion is being invested by the UK Government directly in Scotland to level up communities."

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Louise Jack