The European Commission is to double its investment in robotics research between 2007 and 2010 to almost €400m.
Referring to what she described as a clear window of opportunity for automation industries in Europe, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding said industry needed to intensify its efforts to move higher up the value chain.
The European Union has today a strong position in industrial robots for automation: about one third of all industrial robots are produced in Europe.
The robotics market’’s growth rate will form an important part of the world economy within the next two decades: the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimates the current world market for industrial robots is valued at about €4bn and forecasts a 4.2pc increase per year until 2010.
Growth areas in robotics will be in service robots, which will account for between 10pc and 15pc of the robotics market per year between now and 2010, with the number of service robots growing from about 40,000 in 2006 to 75,000 in 2010. Service robots are used in many sectors, for example, for the distribution of goods, for cleaning vehicles, in agriculture and in medical applications.
As part of its €400m research programme, the European Commission is taking steps to set up a technology transfer scheme between academia and industry, enabling European research labs to use industrial-strength robots for large-scale experimentation. The resulting scientific knowledge will be fed directly back to participating companies.
South Korea is leading the way in robotics R&D investment, spending €250m on research in 2007, compared to €100m in Europe. Some €15m was spent in the US in 2007 and €11.5m was spent in Japan.
By Niall Byrne