The aim is to speed up the development of robotic technologies and increase the competitiveness of Europe's manufacturing sector. Robott-Net will educate companies about hardware, IT systems and protocols to help them run their factories more efficiently and to get more from the data in their businesses.
The MTC is one of four European research organisations in the Robott-Net consortium. The others are Fraunhofer IPA in Germany, Tecnalia in Spain and the Danish Technological Institute. Robott-Net will provide consultancy for 64 companies across the four countries, 16 per centre. The strongest two applications per centre will be awarded €150,000 grants to help them develop their robotic manufacturing systems to the pilot stage.
Each organisation will offer free consulting to companies who develop or deploy automation technologies in industrial production. Companies of any size with an idea, challenge or development project related to industrial robots can apply for vouchers that will give them about 400 hours (about three months) of free consulting. The MTC expects the project to be of greatest benefit to small and mid-sized companies.
“We need to get more automation into supply-chain companies – in the UK, but also in Europe – to become more globally competitive,” says Neil Rawlinson, strategic development director at the MTC, who adds that it is recognised that “the UK lags everyone else [in automation]. Theoretically there is a 30% productivity improvement for UK businesses if we get automation into the supply chain to reach the same levels as Germany or Japan.”
“Open Lab” demonstrator events will be held in all four participating countries, with the UK’s first event taking place at the MTC on the 26th May. These events will provide more information on how to apply for the free consultancy, and to secure the further development assistance of up to €150,000.
Funding for the scheme is coming from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 project, the EU’s biggest ever innovation programme, with nearly €80bn of funding to deploy from 2014 to 2020.
As well as Robott-Net, the MTC is involved in several other projects to help UK SMEs raise productivity using manufacturing technologies. It recently launched a 300-page Manufacturing Change Handbook and Government subsidised services for small to medium sized businesses.