UK's largest robot labs to open in Bristol

Issue date: 13 December 2005

Chris Melhuish (left) and David May Intelligent and independent robots, designed to cooperate with people and work autonomously, are to be developed at a new robotics facility in Bristol.

Examples of the new kind of robot include robotic care assistants to help the aged; wearable computers that could jog your memory; domestic and industrial cleaning robots to do the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs none of us want; novel forms of prosthesis and artificial limbs; as well as pets and toys. These exciting new devices, to be developed over the next ten years, will shape our daily lives.

The University of the West of England (UWE) and the University of Bristol have joined forces to create the dynamic partnership that will form Bristol Robotics Laboratories (BRL). The multi-million pound investment will be based at the Bristol Business Park and is due to open in 2006.

Lord Sainsbury, the UK's Science and Innovation Minister, endorsed the new development by saying: "Robotics will have a significant social and economic impact in the 21st Century. The new laboratory will provide the focus for cutting edge collaboration between UK industry and universities in this rapidly evolving technology. Investment in new facilities such as this will help contribute to making the UK the best place in the world for science and innovation."

BRL Director, Professor Chris Melhuish (pictured left) from the University of the West of England, said: "The new complex will become the largest research facility in the UK for advanced robotics. BRL will bring together university and industrial researchers in a wide range of projects. With a critical mass of over 50 researchers, the UK will be in a position to compete internationally with the leaders in this field, such as those in Japan and the States. It is a fantastic opportunity for both universities and the region."

Professor David May (pictured right) from the University of Bristol added: "Robotics in the 21st century must embrace new materials and technologies, and draw upon a whole range of disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, material science, microbiology, as well as computer science and engineering - in fact it is difficult to find a scientific discipline that will not be included."

The development will create enormous opportunities for innovation and industrial growth in the South West, with its strong technological base. BRL will be uniquely placed to crystallise this opportunity by shaping the research, education and training for a new generation of robotics technologists, scientists and entrepreneurs.

Mr Alfred Morris, Vice-Chancellor at UWE said: "The UK's international competitors have been investing in this area for a while. For example, Japan has a major programme which has linked university research with industry; China is investing heavily in the education of a new generation of technologists and the US has a long-term agenda. The challenge for the UK is to build on world-class expertise to create a presence on the world stage."

Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, agreed and added: "We are delighted to form this partnership with UWE. It is a great example of how the two universities, working in partnership with industry, can make Bristol's recently acquired title of 'Science City' really come to life."


Editor's notes

The BRL project has been spearheaded by Professors Chris Melhuish (UWE and University of Bristol) and Alan Winfield (UWE), and Professors David May, FRS, and David Muir Wood from the University of Bristol.

The project will be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Science Research Infrastructure Funding programme and the two universities. The existing labs will be extended and there will be significant investment in new equipment. Work will start in the new year and BRL is scheduled to open during Autumn 2006.

For more information on BRL please visit

For further information please contact:
BRISTOL UWE: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers
Tel: 0117 32 82208; fax: 0117 32 82341;
E-mail: or
University of Bristol: Cherry Lewis, Research Communications Manager
Tel: 0117 928 8086, mobile: 07729 421885

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