£35m robotics research centre will attract new expertise to Yorkshire

Credit: University of York.

A £35m robotics research facility is to be built in a dedicated building at Campus East, University of York.

The centre will provide workspace for up to 100 people, feature a rooftop lab, and specialist robotics design and testing equipment.

It will be called The York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy, and will tackle global challenges in assuring the safety of robotics and connected autonomous systems.

Work on the new building will begin in April 2020 and it will open its doors in 2021.

The venture is being funded through Research England’s flagship capital investment scheme, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).

And it is supported with money from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, as well as an international network of collaborative industrial partners and private donors.

The UKRPIF fund is providing £10.5m for the York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy, with £24.5m secured through match funding from industrial and philanthropic partners.

The initiative is a part of York Unlimited, a campaign for the University of York to develop new ways for science and technology to help society.

York’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Saul Tendler, said: “The investment is one of the largest in research infrastructure at York.

“It represents a significant vote of confidence in the university and the region and confirms our position as one of the world’s premier institutions for inspirational and life-changing research.

“We are already leading the way in this hugely important area with researchers across multiple departments working together to advance the safe introduction of robotics and connected autonomous systems across the globe.”

Professor John McDermid, Director of the Assuring Autonomy International Programme at the university, added: “The world is experiencing an unprecedented period of technological advancement. Robotics and AI will change every part of our lives.

“They will remove people from harmful jobs, transform transport, improve productivity, and deliver better social and medical care.

“But this rapid advancement comes with challenges: How do we assure their safety? The York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy will support research that will give developers, members of the public and regulators the justified confidence that they need in the safety of autonomous systems.”

Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at University of York, said: “The York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy will contribute significantly to the national Industrial Strategy, enabling us to establish a world-class facility and help strengthen the UK’s position as a leader in the safe introduction of advanced technology.”

Professor Richard Clegg, Chief Executive at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, said: “Robotics and autonomous systems are going to make a big impact on the sectors we serve as a charity and key to uptake and application is going to be their assurance of safety and regulation.

“That is why establishing this programme with York is so important towards our purpose of working together for a safer world.”