Three years ago we launched the £93 million Robots for a Safer World challenge, part of the first wave of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
The challenge was to develop safer and more productive technologies for working in extreme environments, in industries such as Nuclear Decommissioning, Offshore Wind Energy and Space.
We’ve committed most of the funding and we’re working hard with the innovators to ensure that:
- their R&D is exploited to its full potential
- the businesses we support can grow
- this funding has a positive impact on our society and the environment
Over the last three years we’ve provided funding to over 160 organisations and 96 projects, across all parts of the UK, from Falmouth to the Orkney Isles.
- The National Centre for Nuclear Robotics Hub (NCNR) carrying out the most detailed surveys of the Chernobyl ‘Red Forest’ using Beyond Visual Line of Sight drones
- Bristol based ROVCO being awarded three grants in the challenge and growing from a team of 3 to 50. It has also seen annual revenue increase from £0.5m to £10 million
- The Robotics & AI in Nuclear (RAIN) hub travelled to Fukishima and tested submersible robots that create 3D environments and measure Nuclear fuel debris inside pressure containment vessels
- Astroscale growing in the UK at Harwell and securing $160 million in investment. Soon they will launch a satellite demonstrating how space-debris can be ‘cleaned up’ by capturing faulty satellites and guiding them safely down to the upper atmosphere, where they will burn up and not be a threat
- TeTeamTAOamTAO, a collaboration between Soil Machine Dynamics and Newcastle University competed in the international Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize. TEAMTAO was one of four teams selected for the grand final off the coast of Greece and made history winning the Moonshot Award for Innovation
But we’re not stopping yet, with a further £15 million in funding extending the challenge for another 12 months. This will ensure that projects affected by Covid-19 can still reach their full potential, and innovators can pursue new opportunities that have arisen since we started.
Investing to beat Covid-19
In spring 2020 as the effects of Covid-19 began to be felt and with logistics and healthcare systems pushed to their limits. Robots emerged as a potential solution to minimise the physical contact between people and keeping the economy ticking over.
We supported some of the concepts below by awarding over 20 business-led fast-start grants to robotics projects responding directly to the Covid-19 crisis by:
- picking fruit
- sanitising public spaces
- delivering groceries to homes
- delivering NHS supplies to the Isle of Wight
- caring for the elderly
- moving hospital beds to free up NHS staff
The Covid crisis has shown us that we need robots working across our entire economy to create a ‘low touch economy’ and to build a more resilient future. That’s why we are expanding our ambition to fund robotics projects outside of nuclear, space, and offshore industries.
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