On April 1st, the European Robotics Challenges (EuRoC) was launched by a consortium of the leading robotics companies and research institutions in Europe. EuRoC aims at bringing competitive solutions to the European manufacturing industry to keep global leadership in products and services. Three industry-related Challenges within the scenarios of 1) Re-configurable Interactive Manufacturing Cell, 2) Shop Floor Logistics and Manipulation and 3) Plant Servicing and Inspection have been identified and designed to address this need. With a cumulative sum of €7 million grant money, access to some of the leading robotics platforms in Europe and excellent networking opportunities, the consortium is confident that EuRoC is able to attract a large number of qualified teams that want to be part of the Challenge Programme. Over the next 4 years, EuRoC will take solutions from simulation contests to real field tests in order to find the most sustainable and industrially applicable robotics innovations within the three scenarios of interest. We had a chat with Bruno Siciliano, the Project Coordinator of EuRoC about this large and exciting robotics Challenge Programme.
Hello Bruno – thanks for speaking with us. Could you start by telling us a bit about the motivation behind EuRoC?
The idea of launching a programme like EuRoC was motivated by the specific need to exploit synergies across the whole value chain of stakeholders, i.e. application experts, technology suppliers, system integrators and service providers, with the goal to speed up the process of bringing innovative technologies from research labs to industrial end users. As an enabler in this context, the EuRoC Challenges aims at facilitating this cross‐fertilization by endowing world‐class robots with basic robot skills and “forcing” challengers to use these robot systems for the respective challenge scenarios. With this unique strategy, the innovation potential and the later market uptake are much higher than with from scratch developments (even when based on standard robot equipment).
Why did you decide that a Challenge was the right way to go?
I strongly believe that the definition of competitions and making them visible as “Grand Challenges” will create the required awareness in the European community. Furthermore, we all know from past experience that competitive solutions are in the longer term created only in close collaboration of industry and academia. Resorting to experimentation on shared research infrastructures, while referring to jointly developed benchmarks, will boost the development of new solutions.
What do you hope will be the outcome of EuRoC if we look 4 years into the future?
The EuRoC Challenge Programme will foster the development of 6 novel commercial robot solutions and 9 novel pre-commercial robot solutions for manufacturing applications. These solutions are of particular interest to SMEs, as teams are required to address technical and economic issues derived from the needs of SMEs. Providing solutions to these challenges will almost automatically strengthen the competitive position of the European robotics industry in production, logistics and servicing, as well as through the application of the solutions to the manufacturing industry in general.
Can you elaborate a bit on the different stages of EuRoC that successful Challengers will go through?
Each challenge is launched via an open call and is structured in 3 stages. 45 contestants are selected using a challenge in a simulation environment: the low barrier of entry allows new players to compete with established robotics teams. Matching up the best contestants with industrial end users, 15 Challenger teams are admitted to the second stage, where the typical team is formed by research experts, technology suppliers, system integrators, plus end users. Teams are required to benchmark use cases on standard robotic platforms empowered by the EuRoC consortium. After a mid-term evaluation with public competition, the teams advance to showcasing the use case in a realistic environment. After an open judging process, 6 Challenge Finalists are admitted to run pilot experiments in a real environment at end-user sites to determine the final EuRoC Winner.
How do you see EuRoC can benefit participating end users?
This challenge-based approach with multiple stages of increasing complexity and financial support for competing teams will level the playing field for new contestants, attract new developers and new end users toward customisable robot applications. End users will have the opportunity to team up with candidate Challengers during a brokerage workshop and receive each team up to € 585K funding to develop the selected use cases from a realistic lab environment to a real field test environment.
Do you have any final advice for potential Challengers and end users who find this Challenge interesting?
On one hand, potential end users willing to participate to EuRoC should propose representative use cases within the three challenge scenarios. On the other, candidate Challengers qualified after the first stage should team up with those end users which have proposed the most innovative, yet solvable use cases. This competitive match-making process will culminate into the brokerage workshop after which the teams are formed and the proposals for the application experiments are submitted for evaluation. My final advice to Challengers and End users: if you have innovative and creative solutions, and if you are willing to benchmark them against competitive use cases, go EuRoC, do not miss this unique opportunity!
Thank you very much for speaking with us. We truly hope the solutions of this Challenge Programme will advance the goals of the European manufacturing industry.
Apply to the EuRoC Challenge Programme now by clicking here