Robotics firm opens Sheffield hub

Collaborative robot manufacturer Universal Robots has launched its first UK hub in Sheffield in what it hopes will become the centr4e of a robotics cluster.

The firm’s UK and Ireland manager Mark Gray said he hopes the firm’s collaborative robots – designed to operate alongside exiting workers – will help SMEs in particular automate processes and boost productivity.

“Seventy five per cent of our sales in the UK are to SMEs,” Gray said. “They’re exactly the companies that we want to deal with, because we can show a positive transformation them in a short timeframe. And also, you’re sitting down with the guy who’s got the problem, who can make the decision quickly. Of course, we deal with the big automotive companies and the big packaging companies. But SMEs, particularly in the UK, are the most important part of our manufacturing economy. They punch way above their weight.”

A cobot goes through its paces at Universal Robots’ training centre

The Danish firm chose Sheffield as its first UK location because of its manufacturing heritage, regional connectivity and the presence of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and university, Gray added.

“We want it to be the first  in what we hope will be the Yorkshire robot cluster. We’ve put a flag in the ground, and other people will come and form this around us. And we think that Sheffield particularly has people with the correct skills for this to grow.”

Dr James Law, senior innovation fellow for Sheffield Robotics, the Department of Computer Science and the AMRC Integrated Manufacturing Group, at the University of Sheffield, sasyd, “We work very closely with industry so it’s encouraging to see such a significant player in the world of robotics setting up a hub in Sheffield. Collaborative robots, or cobots, will transform the way we work. They will allow UK manufacturers to combine the unique perceptual and cognitive abilities of humans with the repeatability, precision, and lifting capabilities of robots.

“In this way, cobots can be used to augment the abilities of the human, removing them from dangerous, repetitive and strenuous activities. This new hub will help UK manufacturers to further unlock the potential value offered by robotics.”

Law was keen to stress that such robots did not threaten jobs, but by helping companies boost productivity often created more jobs.Gray added, “In the UK we have the lowest productivity in the G7. Robotics are a solution here. It’s no coincidence that some of the countries with the highest rates of productivity have adopted robotics and automation as part of their industrial strategy.”

This latest hub follows record annual revenues for Universal Robots of US$326m, up 5% on 2021.