Its 8am on a Friday morning and I’m sitting in a busy airport lounge waiting for my flight to San Diego. Why? Because this week is the kick off the week-long entrepreneur Mission to California for UK companies working in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) – and it’s destined to be an inspiring one.
The eight UK companies going on this mission are the cream of the crop in terms of robotics and autonomous systems and this week could potentially shape the future of some of these amazing organisations. They went through a tough, competitive process to get a place on this mission and were chosen for all the right reasons – they are the best of the best. Not only are they the best, however, they are also interesting. The companies are involved in work on everything from toys that operate autonomously to intelligent furniture and sophisticated robot hands that have human features. These are all exciting and potentially market changing technologies and we want UK companies to be ahead of the game in these areas.
What’s also exciting is that these companies are all SMEs, run by entrepreneurs and in many cases at the early stages of their product development. Who knows where this mission could lead them?
It’s also an exciting time for Robotics and Autonomous Systems in the UK as a whole and the Government is truly behind this innovative, flourishing sector.
David Willets, Minister of State for Universities and Science, recently said: “Robots acting independently of human control – which can learn, adapt and take decisions – will revolutionise our economy and society over the next 20 years.” This certainly does ring true, especially when you explore the potential that just these eight companies are offering.
At the same time, robotics and autonomous systems have also been identified as one of the Government’s “Eight Great Technologies” – technologies that have the potential to make the UK a global leader. As a result, £600 million pounds of investment has been put into these key areas, with RAS having a share of that. This investment money was made available for businesses working in these eight technology areas at the start of the year and is likely to continue to receive more funding and support moving forward. This is helping more SME’s to commercialise their products faster and is exactly what we need to boost the UK economy.
With this in mind, the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Mission is an important one for us at the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.
It’s been a long week at the Technology Strategy Board so far. As lead Technologist at the UK’s Innovation Agency, life is always busy, but this week I have been swept off my feet as we have been working on the final touches for the mission.
Tuesday was one of the busiest days so far as it was the Mission launch event. The day was designed to prepare the companies for what is going to be an intense and potentially game changing week for them and their businesses. We guided them through everything they need to know, from how to ‘do business’ in San Diego and Silicon Valley, right through to how to pitch to a US audience and all of the regulation our entrepreneurs need to be mindful of when looking to take their business in to US market.
With the effort that has been put in, I know the agenda for the week ahead won’t disappoint and sitting here in this airport I am full of confidence that we are about to see potentially one of the best missions yet.
David Willets will be there and on Monday he will be kicking off the week with a round table debate on the future of Robotics. Our companies will spend their time getting involved in 1-2-1 meetings, pitching sessions and meeting with key innovators across the US RAS landscape which they may never have had rubbed shoulders with if they had tried to go it alone.
Speaking from experience of successfully working in both San Diego and Silicon Valley, I have some straightforward advice to the companies on the mission: To be most effective, be clear on your business along with the value proposition of your products. This will enable you to engage with the Silicon Valley ethos of openness, intrigue and willingness.
New ideas and products intrigue the California technology gurus. They are open to identifying partnership opportunities and, if you are of the ‘right stuff’, which our companies definitely are, they will be willing to make those all important connections.
And so it begins…
Huw Davies is Lead Technologist at the Technology Strategy Board, responsible for Robotics, Electronics and Sensors.