Expected Outcome: Proposal results are expected to contribute to all the following expected outcomes:
• Scientific and technology advances in the major robotics challenges hampering its deployment
• A strong and tightly networked European research community in robotics, making it a world-class powerhouse for robotics excellence.
Scope: To ensure European open strategic autonomy in robotics, with huge potential socio-economic impact, it is essential to reinforce and build on Europe’s assets, including its world-class research community. In order to stay at the forefront of technological developments, it is essential that researchers collaborate, share ideas and research outcomes. A strongly networked community focused on excellence will be better at addressing the major robotics challenges that block the domain’s further development and deployment.
As stated in the communication from the European Commission on Artificial Intelligence for Europe and the coordinated action plan between the European Commission and the Member States and Associated Countries, while Europe has undeniable strengths with its many leading research centres, efforts are scattered. Therefore, joining forces will be crucial to international competitiveness. Europe must scale up existing research capacities and reach a critical mass through tighter networks of European robotics excellence centres. Proposals should develop mechanisms to reinforce and network excellence centres in AI-powered robotics, bringing the best scientists from academia and industry to join forces in addressing the major robotics challenges hampering its deployment, and to reinforce excellence in robotics throughout Europe via a network of collaboration that focuses research excellence on future industrial needs.
Such networks are expected to mobilise leading researchers to collaborate on key robotics topics, to reach critical mass and increase the impact of the funding in progressing faster in joined efforts rather than working in isolation, with fragmented and duplicated efforts. Composition of the Network:
• Proposals should be driven by leading figures in robotics from major excellent robotics research centres, and industries, and bringing the best scientists distributed all over Europe, including also from promising research labs. They will bring on board the necessary level of expertise and variety of disciplines and profiles to achieve their objectives.
• Industrial participation will be ensured through inclusion of industrial organisations with research teams from multiple sectors that can bring into the network the expertise to identify important technological limitations hampering deployment in industry.
• Where relevant, representatives of civil society (e.g. social partners, citizen’s committees) bring in the ideas and needs of consumers/users and society, in order to obtain R&I results that are of practical relevance not only for industry/business but also for society.
Activities of the Network:
• In order to structure the activities, the proposals will focus on important scientific or technological challenges with industrial relevance and where Europe will make a difference, either in building on strengths, or strengthening knowledge to fill gaps critical for Europe.
• Based on these challenges, the proposals will develop and implement common research agendas. The main vision and roadmap with targets within the projects, as well as methodology to implement and monitor progress will have to be specified in the proposal and can be further developed during the project.
• Progress will be demonstrated in the context of use-cases, also helping to foster industry-academia collaboration
• Strong links will be developed among the members of the network, notably through collaborative projects, exchange programmes, workshops, or other mechanisms to be defined by the consortia.
• Proposals should develop mechanisms to foster excellence, to increase efficiency of collaboration, and to develop a vibrant Robotics network across Europe.
• The network will disseminate the latest and most advanced knowledge to all the academic and industrial Robotics laboratories in Europe and involve them in collaborative projects/exchange programmes. (This could involve projects defined initially or via financial support to third parties, for maximum 20% of the requested EU contribution, with a maximum of 60k€ per third party).
• The network will develop strong interactions with industry, and where relevant, with trade unions, and civil society (inside the consortium and beyond), in view of triggering new scientific questions and fostering take-up of scientific advances.
• The network will develop collaboration with relevant Digital innovation Hubs, to disseminate knowledge and tools, understand their needs, and extend the industry-academia-civil society collaboration.
• The network should also foster innovation and include mechanisms to exploit new ideas coming out of the network’s work (for instance via incubators).
• Proposals should define mechanisms to become a virtual centre of excellence, offering access to knowledge and serve as a reference in robotics, including activities to ensure high visibility, usability and accessibility.
The proposals should:
• Include mechanisms to spread the latest and most advanced knowledge to all the robotics-labs in Europe
• Develop synergies and cross-fertilization between industry, civil society, and academia
• Ensure that the network becomes a common resource and shared facility, as a virtual laboratory offering access to knowledge and expertise and a magnet for talents.
• Establish high visibility and accessibility, creating an easy entry point to robotics excellence in Europe where it is possible to access cutting edge ideas, research and expertise. • Include sustainable access to the required resources and infrastructure to support R&D activities of the action, such as robotics equipment, support staff and engineers, and capacity to develop experiments that address the major future robotics challenges.
Proposals should define a number of major scientific and application challenges it will focus on and which will mobilise the community to join forces across Europe in addressing them. Continuous evaluation and demonstration of progress towards solving the targeted challenges will motivate the entire network and support publications and scientific career developments (providing reference benchmarks to publish comparative results, using the reference data, scenarios, etc.), and also showcase the technology in application contexts, to attract more user industries and eventually foster take-up and adoption of the technology. Scientific and technological progress will be monitored through qualitative and quantitative KPIs (including industry and service relevant KPIs), demonstrators, benchmarking and progress monitoring processes.
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 4-5 by the end of the project.
To address limitations of the use of robots due to human factors, an interdisciplinary approach involving both technical and SSH researchers is encouraged to address issues such as interaction design, human factors, acceptability, non-discrimination and biases and trustworthiness, taking into account gender and intersectionality aspects, as appropriate. Indeed, human-centred approaches in combination with multi-stakeholder co-design activities can contribute to sustainable development of new enabling technologies. Putting people at the forefront is expected to generate novel transformation pathways, which can remedy existing technology in novel ways, and propose feedback loop systems that engage human users in developing new sociotechnical learning situations and tools. Further, agile sociotechnical learning designs can remedy e.g. less efficient technologies, by emphasizing human aspects of technologies in any sector (industry, healthcare, smart homes, etc.). Where appropriate, special attention will be given to including users of diverse age, gender and background.
The proposals are expected to include mechanisms to share resources, knowledge, tools, modules, software, results, expertise, and make equipment/infrastructure available to scientists to optimise the scientific and technological progress. To that end, tools such as the AI-on-demand platform and Digital Industrial Platform for Robotics should also be exploited, enhanced and further developed by the network, to support the networking, quality assessment, benchmarking and sharing of resources, maximising re-use and up-take of results. Openness and interoperability of components are encouraged to develop synergies and cross-fertilization between different approaches and solutions (e.g. through modularity of components or open interfaces).
The proposals are also expected to include collaboration mechanisms among the best robotics teams, but also mechanisms to bring all European robotics teams to the highest level of excellence.
Proposals are expected to develop synergies:
• With other Networks of excellence centres in AI funded in H2020 or Horizon Europe, with a view of, all together, create vibrant European network of AI excellence centres. To that end, the activities should integrate with and complement the activities of the H2020-ICT-48 projects. The proposals are expected to dedicate tasks to ensure this coherence.
• With relevant activities in AI, Data and Robotics, primarily in destinations 3, 4 and 6, but also in other destinations and clusters, and share or exploit results where appropriate.
All proposals are expected to allocate tasks to cohesion activities with the PPP on AI, Data and Robotics and funded actions related to this partnership, including the CSA HORIZON-CL4-2021-HUMAN-01-02. Where relevant, synergies with other PPPs are encouraged.