From Odense to Edinburgh and back
European Robotics Forum, Edinburgh 22-24 of March
50 percent growth within robotics is a not such an uncommon growth rate. Five years ago, in 2012, the European Robotics Forum (ERF) was organized in Odense with around 500 participants, mainly scientists, researchers and robotics officials from the European Commission.
This year, ERF was held in Edinburgh from March 22nd to the 24th, and 830 delegates attended. Still mainly R&D and university staff, friendly nerds loving their craft and passionate about their projects. But something was definitely different. People were discussing markets and business models. Kuka and Schunk were the main sponsors. Although a lot of the projects presented were EU funded and a lot of the delegates were looking for partners for EU projects, there was a lot of focus on commercial solutions. All signs of a maturing sector, moving past caged robots for the automation industry.
This is a trend we see very clearly in Odense, where over 100 robotic/automation companies with over 2600 employees now create solutions in other industries than manufacturing. Odense was well represented in Edinburgh, first and foremost by DTI, Danish Technological Institute – Center for Robotics. Seven DTI staffers were at ERF, presenting some of the numerous projects they are involved in, including Robott-Net. Just behind Fraunhofer, DTI is the research institute in Europe that secured the most money from the Horizon 2020 Robotics call. Kurt Nielsen (head of DTI Robotics) said: “We make sure that DTI is visible at the European Robotics Forum. This is the right place to secure alignment between Danish and European robotics strategies.”
Besides DTI, the following people from Odense were spotted:
- Blue Ocean Robotics participated in Edinburgh, with Franziska Kirstein and John Erland Østergaard, active in the research project ECHORD++ (The European Coordination Hub for Open Robotics Development).
- John Hallam (Professor, The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, SDU Embodied Systems for Robotics and Learning)
- Mikkel Christoffersen, Business Manager at Odense Robotics
Two highlights from the European Robotics Forum deserve some special attention. The Tech-Transfer Award was a well-organized event with some excellent cases, the best ones coming from Switzerland: Anybotics and (the winner) Fotokite. Both would be excellent candidates for the Robotic Scaleup program, starting soon in Denmark.
Contrary to other aspects of the forum, the pitch event was somewhat chaotic and the quality of the (student) pitches rather poor. Four of the five finalists made it to the stage with their projects, all more or less still in the concept phase:
- ReHand, a light exoskeleton from Italy
- Haxtron, a spherical aerial rescue robot from Ireland
- Archoff, a cheap 6 DoF Cobot from Greece
- Walk to Beat, a smart walking stick from the UK (the pitch award winner)
Next year ERF will move to Tampere, Finland. And no doubt Odense, the Nordic capital of robotics, will be there as well. Or as Ali Muhammad, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, put it so nicely in Edinburgh: “Everyone is talking about Odense”.
Director, Invest in Odense