BLOG: The opportunities for start-ups

Robots are no longer just mythical machines from science fiction.  from self-driving cars to flying drones, robots are on the move. Robots are developing in almost every area, from agriculture, manufacture and medicine to the military, education and our own homes. As a  start-up I’m particularly excited by the opportunities and business potential within this fledgling industry.

I’ve spent the past week in California with a group of 8 small and medium sized companies, discovering the latest and greatest in robotics. The week-long trip, organised by the Technology Strategy Board, has been a privileged behind-the-scenes tour of the industry, witnessing state of the art robotics and contemplating the growing opportunities in this brave new world.

Consumer goods or industry solutions?

The robotics industry is only at the beginning of its journey, and robotics in the real world is really only just beginning  – a notion that was emphasised by Dr. Todd Hylton, Senior Vice President at Brain Corp, during a debate on the future of robotics. ‘How many robots have you seen today?’ asked Todd. We can of course expect this to change in the not-too-distant future, with Brain Corp and dozens of other companies now on a mission to help grow this day-to-day interaction from zero to many for the average citizen.

A popular view is that robots are going to be the next mass consumer wave, following on from laptops, smartphones and tablets. Personally I feel differently. Whilst I believe some robots are going to break into mass markets this way, I think the real impact of robotics is going to be surprising and will have a broader impact in society.  Robotics is about convergence from a much wider base of science and technology,  ranging from material science, software, psychology, and even biology.  As such, the way these come together I think is going to create new products, services and technologies that are going to be as amazing as they will be hard to predict.

A visit to Stanford Research Institute highlights this view. One project in progress is the totally astounding micro manufacturing robots. These tiny robotic workers are building super materials, developing one tiny piece at a time.  This technology uses physics, electronics, material science and programming techniques that are all pretty basic when looked at independently. However, when you bring them together something completely new emerges. I believe this will be a common story as robotics develops.

Preparing for the future

My company, Agilic Ltd, is in the process of developing robotic solutions for use in education. Engaging individuals in robotics at an early age will, I believe, help shape an increasingly robotic-centric society that can continue the development of robot technology to deliver freedom and intelligence in the future.

When it comes to start-ups, I believe that there are boundless opportunities within the robotics industry – from developing new technology to identifying market applications for robotics. It really is a booming industry, and I’m incredibly excited to help it evolve over the next few years.

 

harry geeBy Harry Gee, Director, Agilic Ltd

This article originally appeared in Electronics Weekly (08 July)

 

BLOG: Unmanned Aircraft Systems – opportunities for UK companies in California

The first stop on the Technology Strategy Board’s Robotics Mission to California was San Diego, the 8th largest city in the US with the 17th largest economy, largely driven by the tourism, innovation and the defence sectors.

Our first day on the Mission always promised to be an interesting day with visits to the robotic research labs of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the local chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

AUVSI has grown to become the world’s largest non-profit organisation devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community and will often represent their industries views to Congress.

When the US Government mandated the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to open the US skies to unmanned aircraft by 2015, AUVSI released a study that found 100,000 jobs would be created and that the associated economic impact of $82 billion would be realised within 10 years as a result.

So for three of our Mission companies, the opportunity to meet up with some of the world’s leading Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) developers at the centre of one of the world’s largest and most progressive markets for UAS is quite a ‘big deal’. Each have developed new technologies that could unlock the widespread adoption of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for civil applications by increasing flight times, reducing weight and size and designing in safety.

Remote Operate Aerial Endurance Vehicles

Multi-rotor copters are becoming the UAS of choice, mainly because of their availability and price. Around $500 will get you a top of the range fully loaded quadcopter with GPS, auto-pilot and controller. However, flight times are fairly limited, around 15-20 minutes at best. AuraTech has developed Remote Operate Aerial Endurance Vehicle (ROAEV) which boasts flight times in excess of 12 hours. These devices will not only make remote inspection and the process of surveying more efficient, but they can now be thought of as platforms for service delivery.

Maplebird is in the process of developing the smallest UAS in the world and they are doing this by turning to nature. Their device is smaller and lighter than an average smart phone and achieves flight through flapping insect-like wings at incredible frequencies. By drawing inspiration from the humble honey bee, not only is flight incredibly power efficient, but it is also highly controllable, making its ability to cope with windy conditions second to none. Such a small UAS inevitably means that the power available to the onboard sensors is limited. The solution has once again been found by nature which has enabled Maplebird to develop energy efficient navigation and collision avoidance systems. This tiny bio-inspired device is not only well suited for industrial plant inspection or the emergency services, but also, rather fittingly, could be used to help with agricultural pollination.

Hiding the complexity of Formal Methods

D-RisQ is in the business of proving that software systems work. This is considerably more difficult to do than it sounds, especially when the software systems learn. However, the software design tools that D-RisQ have developed hide the complexity of Formal Methods from the software developers and allow them to focus on capturing system requirements. Their suite of tools is then able to test the software for failure modes and can verify and qualify that all the requirements have been met. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are particularly interested in D-RisQ’s technology. If the CAA’s set of regulations for civil airspace can drive the requirements for UAS onboard software then it is finally possible to rapidly certify UAS as safe to fly. Not only that, it will also be possible to certify that fully autonomous UAS operating beyond the visual line of sight (BVLoS) of the operator are also safe to fly. This is a game changer, not only for the UAS industry, but also for every other sector that is looking to certify autonomous robots, whether in agriculture, assisted living, blue light services, healthcare, manufacturing, transport or space.

The first day of the Mission proved to be a very interesting day indeed.

phil williamsBy Phil Williams, the programme manager of the UK Robotics & Autonomous Systems SIG 

This blog originally appeared in Electronics Weekly (04 July 2014)

 

Best of the Best British Robotics Companies Start Touring California Today

UK’s Innovation Agency Commences ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems Entrepreneur Mission 2014’ in California

SAN FRANCISCO – June 23, 2014 – The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, today embarks on the ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission 2014’ with eight robotics companies from the UK. The mission will allow these companies to showcase their technology to peers, partners, investors and potential customers.

The eight selected robotics companies represent the very best that the British robotics and autonomous systems industry has to offer, showcasing the breadth and depth of innovation within British robotics. The technologies range from an entrepreneur that has created a new robot based on the Raspberry Pi mini-computer, to one company designing robots to help the elderly and another company creating the world’s smallest Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Mission activities begin today as the eight companies and representatives from The Technology Strategy Board venture to San Diego where they will meet with representatives from industry-leading maritime and robotics companies. The San Diego leg of the mission will be headlined by a roundtable discussion keynoted by Rt Hon. David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science.

Following events in San Diego, the mission will travel to Silicon Valley and San Francisco where the companies will continue with a packed agenda of briefings and partnership discussions with leading US robotics companies, academic organizations and research institutions as well as meeting with investors to explore US funding opportunities focused on innovation in the field of robotics. The Mission will end on Friday 27 June in San Francisco.

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS

The companies earned their place on the Mission by demonstrating the potential of their technologies to the Technology Strategy Board.

The participants of 2014 Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission are:

Agilic

Agilic is a start-up based at The Bristol Robotics Lab technology Incubator. Agilic is developing a range of educational Robotics kits that inspire learning and play. The PiBot is based on the Raspberry Pi mini-computer, a low cost, credit-card sized computer that has gained worldwide adoption, it will allow anyone to build, program, and customise their own personal robot.

Aura Tech

Advanced Unmanned Robotics & Automation TECHnology (AuraTech) was founded in 2012 and operates out of the Tees Valley in the North of England. AuraTech offers engineering and design consultancy services for remote technology applications, and is currently working on a Remote Operate Aerial Endurance Vehicle (ROAEV).

D-RisQ

D-RisQ produces automated formal analysis tools that change the way the world develops safety critical systems and software in sectors where the consequences of failure -could be catastrophic  including Aerospace, Defence, Nuclear Power, Rail, Automotive and Robotics.  These tools cut the cost and time of development whilst ensuring safety requirements are met. Applicable to all business sectors, these tools have been used successfully on software systems for military aircraft.

MapleBird

MapleBird is at the forefront in the development of the smallest Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the world. This technology enables a range of small devices and opens up many possibilities, from sophisticated reconnaissance UAVs for civilian services and industrial plant inspection through to personal drones controlled through a smart phone.

Q Bot

Q-Bot is developing a robotics platform that can cost effectively survey, assess and apply treatments to existing buildings, without the cost and disruption of current insulation methods. With a focus on improving energy efficiency in buildings, Q-Bot provides real, scalable and cost effective solutions to reduce CO2 and enable affordable warmth.

Reach Robotics

Reach Robotics, founded in May 2013, is a robotics entertainment company based at the Bristol Robotics Lab incubator. The company has developed MechaMonsters – small, four-legged robots that can interact with their owners and each other (by playing games and challenging other MechaMonsters to duels).  The Monsters can be customised physically and virtually, and are controlled through a smart phone app.

Sebastian Conran Associates

Sebastian Conran Associates (SCA) is a London-based product design and development studio that focuses on transforming science into culture to create robotic experiences in the home. Concepts under development include ‘MiRoCo’, a Mimetic Robotic Companion -designed to support and enhance peoples’ experience of later life by increasing their independence.

Shadow

Shadow  has a globally-recognised capability in taking cognitive robotics technology from the lab into the real world. Shadow’s key product is the Dexterous Hand, which gives robots the same capability and flexibility as the human hand, enabling a new generation of service robots for roles as varied as hazardous material handling and industrial quality control

More information about the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission 2014 can be found here: http://roboticsmission.org/

About The Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission 2014 (www.roboticsmission.cabbage.wpengine.com)

The Technology Strategy Board and UKTI are leading an entrepreneurs’ mission specialising in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) to California.  It’s a unique week-long trip from 23-27 June 2014 for 10 of the UK’s most innovative start-ups and SMEs specialising in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS).  The mission features a specially-developed programme for companies who want to lay the groundwork for expanding their business into one of the largest and most dynamic robotics markets in the world. The bespoke agenda is designed to provide a unique insight into the US robotics and autonomous systems landscape, open doors to customers and connect with robotics investors.

 About The Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org)

The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency.  Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

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Press Contact:

Alex Monney

amonney@vocecomm.com

(408) 386-2966

UK’s Best Robotics Firms Win UK Govt Competition To Attend Prestigious ‘Mission’ In California

London, 11 June 2014: The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, today announced the winners that will attend the prestigious ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission 2014’ held from 23-27 June 2014 in California.

The selected robotics companies represent the very best that the British robotics and autonomous systems industry has to offer, showcasing the breadth and depth of innovation within British robotics.  The technologies range from an entrepreneur that has created a new robot based on the Raspberry Pi mini-computer, to one company designing robots to help the elderly and another company creating the world’s smallest Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.  More detailed information about the seven companies is available below.

The Mission starts on June 23 and will see the winning companies embark on a week long journey through San Diego, San Francisco and Silicon Valley to showcase their technology to peers, partners, investors and potential customers.  The Technology Strategy Board together with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has organised a packed agenda of briefings, meetings pitch opportunities and networking events to ensure the British robotics companies and entrepreneurs get unparalleled access to the US robotics ecosystem and unique insights into how to expand their business internationally.

Mike Biddle, Deputy Director – Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, said:

“The mission is designed to open doors, build networks and showcase British innovation and Silicon Valley and San Francisco are synonymous with being at the forefront of global robotics and autonomous systems technology.  These companies will benefit from meetings with leading robotics, academic and research institutions, gaining fresh ideas and developing new partnerships and funding opportunities. It’s a springboard which can help them to launch their business, thrive and turn their innovations into tangible business opportunities.”

Louis Barson, Deputy Director at UKTI Innovation Gateway, said:

“UK Trade and Investment’s Innovation Gateway is supporting the UK’s strengths in the 8 GREAT Technologies, including our growing Robotics industry. We see this mission as a chance for  some of our most exciting up and coming businesses to do deals and build connections in the US. And maybe sow the seeds for the next big breakthrough technology as a US-UK collaboration!”

 

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS

The companies earned their place on the Mission by demonstrating the potential of their technologies to the Technology Strategy Board.

The participants of 2014 Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission are:

Agilic

Agilic is a start-up based at The Bristol Robotics Lab technology Incubator. Agilic is developing a range of educational robotics kits that inspire learning and play. The PiBot is based on the Raspberry Pi mini-computer, a low cost, credit-card sized computer that has gained worldwide adoption, it will allow anyone to build, program, and customise their own personal robot.

Aura Tech

Advanced Unmanned Robotics & Automation TECHnology (AuraTech) was founded in 2012 and operates out of the Tees Valley in the North of England. AuraTech offers engineering and design consultancy services for remote technology applications, and is currently working on a Remote Operate Aerial Endurance Vehicle (ROAEV).

D-RisQ

D-RisQ produces automated formal analysis tools that change the way the world develops safety critical systems and software in sectors where the consequences of failure -could be catastrophic  including Aerospace, Defence, Nuclear Power, Rail, Automotive and Robotics.  These tools cut the cost and time of development whilst ensuring safety requirements are met. Applicable to all business sectors, these tools have been used successfully on software systems for military aircraft.

MapleBird

MapleBird is at the forefront in the development of the smallest Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the world. This technology enables a range of small devices and opens up many possibilities, from sophisticated reconnaissance UAVs for civilian services and industrial plant inspection through to personal drones controlled through a smart phone.

Reach Robotics

Reach Robotics, founded in May 2013, is a robotics entertainment company based at the Bristol Robotics Lab incubator. The company has developed MechaMonsters – small, four-legged robots that can interact with their owners and each other (by playing games and challenging other MechaMonsters to duels).  The Monsters can be customised physically and virtually, and are controlled through a smart phone app.

Sebastian Conran Associates

Sebastian Conran Associates (SCA) is a London-based product design and development studio that focuses on transforming science into culture to create robotic experiences in the home. Concepts under development include ‘MiRoCo’, a Mimetic Robotic Companion -designed to support and enhance peoples’ experience of later life by increasing their independence.

Shadow

Shadow  has a globally-recognised capability in taking cognitive robotics technology from the lab into the real world. Shadow’s key product is the Dexterous Hand, which gives robots the same capability and flexibility as the human hand, enabling a new generation of service robots for roles as varied as hazardous material handling and industrial quality control.

The progress of the seven companies can be followed at @roboticsmission.

 The Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission 2014 (www.roboticsmission.cabbage.wpengine.com)

The Technology Strategy Board and UKTI are leading an entrepreneurs’ mission specialising in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) to California.  It’s a unique week-long trip from 23-27 June 2014 for 10 of the UK’s most innovative start-ups and SMEs specialising in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS).  The mission features a specially-developed programme for companies who want to lay the groundwork for expanding their business into one of the largest and most dynamic robotics markets in the world. The bespoke agenda is designed to provide a unique insight into the US robotics and autonomous systems landscape, open doors to customers and connect with robotics investors.

 The Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org)

The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency.  Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

 

UK Trade & Investment (www.ukti.gov.uk)

UK Trade & Investment is the Government Department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high-quality investment to the UK’s dynamic economy acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business.