BBC News at Six broadcasts from Bristol Robotics Lab

Issue date: 12 March 2014

The BBC News at Six will be broadcast from the Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL), the largest multi-disciplinary Lab in the UK, tonight, Wednesday 12 March at 18:00.

This BRL feature is the third of a three part series of pre-budget features - fronted by BBC News at Six anchor, George Alagiah and Chief Economics Correspondent Hugh Pym.

The programme will include selected interviews carried out with UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West, Director of the Bristol Robotics Lab, Professor Chris Melhuish, Deputy Director Professor Tony Pipe and BRL's Theme Leader for Assisted Living, Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly. BRL was approached by the BBC News at Six producers who were looking for an appropriate location to host a pre-budget feature on hi-tech innovation.

Pre-recorded interviews for the national news team by BBC West producer Alex Littlewood focused on the University outlook and how UWE Bristol and universities in general are facing up to the challenge to provide a springboard for technology developments, research and advancement.

Questioned about the importance of investment in research technology in the UK Professor Steve West explained the importance of working across education, technology and business sectors to achieve the best outcomes on the global stage.

Professor West said, “The real challenge we have is that the UK is in a global economy and many of our competitors are investing far more than the UK is the moment. Our challenge is to work on mobilising the resources that we have to ensure the exciting work happening here now gets the recognition and investment it deserves. Facilities like the Bristol Robotics Laboratory for example are enhanced enormously through partnership working with industry to create an environment that harnesses opportunities for growth for jobs and technology advancement.

“We are in a race to the top in technology and one of the important challenges for us is to ensure that government recognises that there are things they can do to ensure that they support industry and universities.

“I believe that the answer lies in development of a rich ecosystem; an ecosystem that starts in schools by encouraging young people to think about science and technology as a career. We then need to move that thinking into universities by ensuring that we have academic programmes that really prepare people with entrepreneurial spirit by creating soft landing places for experimentation that can then lead to research being crystalized in science and technology parks.

“Achieving this means working in partnership and smart investment and by that I mean joining up with the different investment routes and making sure there is a true partnership between public funding and private partnerships. That is going to be the future. That is how we are going to win.”

Professor Chris Melhuish emphasised the critical importance of creating an innovation pipeline through linking up research and industry and through nurturing and encouraging entrepreneurship to create new business.

He said, “Robotics and Autonomous Systems is now recognised as one of the eight great technologies and the work at the BRL is at the forefront of developing a pipeline for innovation working with talented young roboticists and engineers through its business incubator.

“Robotics and AS comprise a vital element in frontline economies and we have seen huge investment commitments from the EU, US and Korea. In the UK we need to match this investment to continue to remain competitive and reap the current and future economic benefits.

“We need to ensure that we enable talented roboticists, engineers and scientists to take blue skies thinking to near market and to encourage and grow businesses that realise the potential. As a Centre of Doctoral Training at BRL we are blending the cerebral thinking but with a foot firmly placed in the real world through encouraging our researchers to think beyond the lab and how findings can have a positive impact in society.”

BRL is collaboration between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol.

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