UK's largest robot lab opens for business

Issue date: 10 May 2012

Reported by BBC Online and ITV West

Professor Chris Melhuish provides an overview of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory - see video here

Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), the largest robotics laboratory of its type in the UK was officially opened on 10 May 2012 by the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science.

See video of David Willets speaking at the opening here

The Laboratory is a partnership between UWE Bristol (University of the West of England) and the University of Bristol. BRL strives to understand the science, engineering and social role of robotics and embedded intelligence.

The BRL is home to a community of 70 academics and businesses who are leading current thinking in nouvelle and service robotics, intelligent autonomous systems and bio-engineering. Over £1.65 million has been spent on the new facilities. The total area of the BRL is circa 2,400 sqm, with over 300 metres of specialised laboratory space and two Flying Arenas.

David Willetts will see BRL research projects that include the CHRISproject on robot human interaction, energy autonomy, soft robots, robots that use whiskersto find their way around and small Unmanned Air Systems (UAS). He will also see the European project Mobiservwhich is looking at ways of using robots in helping to care for older people, a project using robots to help reset broken bones, research that will look at the ethical, legal and social issues around robots and work in non-linear robotics control. The SYMBRIONproject looks at the way swarms of robots can evolve and adapt together into different organisms based on bio-inspired approaches.

David Willetts will be welcomed by Professor Steven West (Vice-Chancellor, UWE Bristol) and Professor David Clarke (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol). He will also meet representatives from industry, the European Commissionand EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “Robotics has a whole host of everyday applications, from helping our ageing population to improving manufacturing processes. Bristol Robotics Laboratory will bring together the best expertise from industry and the academic community to spearhead Britain's efforts to be world leading in this fascinating and exciting area of science.”

Professor Chris Melhuish, Director of BRL says, “We are on the threshold of an exciting new era in robotics in the UK and BRL is already making significant contributions in many areas. Our interdisciplinary research focuses on key areas of robot capabilities and applications ranging from human-robot interaction, medical robotics, soft robots with artificial muscles, giving robots a sense of touch to autonomous flying robots and robots that turn biomass into energy. By bringing together researchers including biologists, electronics and mechanical engineers, surgeons, psychologists, aerodynamicists, computer scientists, mathematicians, material scientists as well as industry we are able to explore new exciting areas of research and new applications which have an impact on new businesses. Our success is underpinned by the excellent staff that make up the BRL."

The BRL is complemented by the work of the Machine Vision Laboratory and the Education Innovation Centre.


Editor's notes

Photos from the launch -

Background facts about the new facilities at the BRL

· The total area of the BRL is circa 2,400 sqm.

· There are six Laboratories to Containment Level 2 standards, totalling circa 335 sqm.

· There are two Flying Arenas, totalling circa 288 sqm.

· The project was managed by UWE Bristol Facilities-Estates Department, and the Principal Contractor was Cowlin Construction Limited.

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