The European robotics industry needs competitive solutions to attain and keep global leadership in robotics products and services. The European society will greatly benefit from this leadership position by making use of these robotics products and services that are aiming at improving their quality of life and work conditions. The adoption of robotics technology will help European manufacturing enterprises, in particular SMEs, to adapt to global competitive pressures. ICT suppliers such as robot manufacturers, system integrators and technology solution providers are important facilitators to improve the efficiency, adaptability and sustainability of manufacturing systems as well as their better integration within business processes in an increasingly globalised industrial context.
To boost robotics and manufacturing in Europe there is a need for a European perspective on the topics that need to be researched and developed. Both the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for robotics in Europe, published in July 2009 under the auspice of the European Technology Platform (EUROP), and the Factory of the Future multi-annual roadmap deliver this European perspective and are at the same time perfect examples of a successful collaboration among all the actors of the value chain in manufacturing and servicing, i.e. end users (SMEs/industry), system integrators (SMEs/industry), technology suppliers (industry/SMEs) and research experts (academia). During the development of the strategic research agendas of robotics and manufacturing, fertilisation across these groups led to a technology roadmap targeting at realising new product visions and applications scenarios by 2020. However, the implementation of these strategic research agendas and the realisation of the application scenarios and associated product visions require an awareness of the core RTD issues to be solved and a joint effort of academia and industry, including SMEs.
We strongly believe that the definition of competitions and making them visible as “Grand Challenges” will create the required awareness in the community at large. Furthermore, we know from past experience that competitive solutions are in the longer term created only in close collaboration of industry and academia. Resorting to experimentation on shared research infrastructures, while referring to jointly developed benchmarks, will boost the development of new solutions.