Europe has a long tradition of outstanding research and manufacturing in robotics. However, finding common ground between manufacturers and the research community has proven difficult in the past. Defining the future direction of robotics research is the real challenge.
The robotics research project ECHORD++ (The European Coordination Hub for Open Robotics Development) promotes the interaction between robot manufacturers, researchers and users. It is the follow-up project of ECHORD (European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development, 2009 – 2013), which was installed as an incubator to drive innovation by facilitating the cooperation between academia and industry.
ECHORD++ will achieve its goal by implementing three different instruments: the Experiments, Public end-user Driven Technological Innovation (PDTI), and the Robotics Innovation Facilities (RIFs). With the Experiments and PDTI, ECHORD++ offers research consortia funding to develop robotics technology for real use-cases. The RIFs provide a unique chance to try out new business ideas and make field tests at zero risk.
These tools are tailor-made to meet the demand for innovative robotics technologies of the manufacturing industry, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with small lot sizes and the need for highly flexible solutions, and public bodies, looking for robotics technology at competitive prices for tender processes. The research consortia in ECHORD++ are composed of partners from industry, academia or research institutes in conjunction with the potential users of the robotics technology.
Formulated in terms of means and ends, the project strives to:
- encourage European research institutions and robot manufacturers to work closely together at an operational level by means of the execution of experiments – with the goal to develop new research excellence and bring technology forward;
- enable different user groups (companies, public institutions, research organisations, …) to get easy access to state-of the art robotic hardware, software and scientific expertise for know-how transfer by means of providing the infrastructure in the RIFs;
- enable research institutions, robot manufacturers and public bodies to explore new application fields and start research & development (R&D)-work for markets that would otherwise not be addressed, by means of PDTI activities;
- extract, consolidate and broadcast the actual progress achieved in the different instruments to the community of robot manufacturers and research institutions and beyond by means of continuous monitoring, reporting and public relations.
The core-consortium partners of ECHORD++ are: Technische Universität München (project coordinator), Blue Ocean Robotics, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives, R.U. Robots, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 601116.