Engineering giant hooks up with University of Manchester on robotics research

A Jacobs robotics specialist at work

Engineering giant Jacobs and the University of Manchester are to create a new international research centre to develop robotics and autonomous systems that will play a key role in climate response.

The Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments (CRADLE) will research new technologies for challenging and heavily regulated industry sectors such as space, nuclear decommissioning, energy generation and urban infrastructure.

The centre will be co-funded to a total value of $11 million over five years by Jacobs, the University of Manchester and the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Prosperity Partnerships programme, which fosters links between academia and industry.

Jacobs staff will support 12 PhD students in conducting research and performing prototype demonstrations at The University of Manchester and at Jacobs’ robotics laboratories in Warrington.

“Securing this prestigious Prosperity Partnerships grant allows Jacobs and The University of Manchester to research the autonomous systems that industry needs to solve today’s challenges and create a more connected and sustainable world,” said Jacobs Energy, Security; Technology Senior Vice President Karen Wiemelt.

“Robotics is already a core strength of Jacobs’ work in the energy and space sectors and this research collaboration will enable us to develop advanced technologies to help achieve net zero targets, such as autonomous inspection and repair systems to extend the life of water and energy networks, roads, bridges and railways.”

Jacobs, which is investing $4.6 million, will have the opportunity to commercialise technologies developed at CRADLE to bring a step-change impact to clients in urban infrastructure, energy generation, nuclear power, decommissioning and space exploration, where robust and reliable autonomous robotics are crucial for efficient asset management and operations.

“CRADLE will allow the university’s recently established Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI to build a relationship with one of the leading organizations involved in applied robotics, helping us to progress our fundamental research in this area and to deliver impact from the robotic and AI systems that we are developing,” said Centre Co-director Professor Barry Lennox.

CRADLE’s research remit covers mechatronics, software and how communities and regulators will engage with future robotic systems. 

Jacobs earns approximately $15 billion in annual revenue and has a global workforce of more than 60,000, providing consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery for the government and private sector.