Feature Story | 20-Apr-2022

New centre to design AI-enhanced smart robots ready for real world applications is launched by autonomous system pioneers at Manchester

The multi-disciplinary Manchester hub will be at the interface between robotics, autonomy and AI – and research will include a pioneering focus on the use of brain-inspired approaches to robot control, learning and interaction

University of Manchester

A new centre of excellence dedicated to designing the next generation of smart robots supported with state-of-the-art AI technologies has been launched at The University of Manchester.  

The University’s Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI pulls together experts and projects from across the academic disciplines who share the challenge of working on the front line of applied robotic technologies.

For example, Manchester researchers are looking to develop robotic systems that are able to explore in the most extreme environments, such as those found in the nuclear industry, power generation (including offshore wind turbines) or agriculture. Other expertise includes designing robots to support digital manufacture or work in the field of medicine and health.

While driving developments in cutting-edge robotic systems the new multi-disciplinary centre will also have a commitment to ensure autonomous systems are compatible with the values and expectations of society. Some of the breakthrough Manchester-led research work will include:

  • designing control systems with a focuses on bio-inspired solutions to mechatronics eg the use of biomimetic sensors, actuators and robot platforms
  • developing new software engineering and AI methodologies for verification in autonomous systems with the aim to design trustworthy autonomous systems
  • researching the human-robot interaction with a pioneering focus on the use of brain-inspired approaches to robot control, learning and interaction.
  • research in ethics and human-centred robotics issues, for the understanding of the impact of the use of robots and autonomous systems with individuals and society

Angelo Cangelosi, Professor of Machine Learning and Robotics at The University of Manchester and Co-Director of the new robotics and AI centre, said the University offers a world-leading position in the field of autonomous systems – a technology that is set to revolutionise our lives and workplaces.

“Manchester’s robotics community has achieved a critical mass of expertise – however, our approach in the designing of robots and autonomous systems for real world applications is distinctive through our novel use of AI-based knowledge,” added Professor Cangelosi.

“Our robot pioneers therefore find themselves on the interface between robotics, autonomy and AI – and their knowledge is drawn from across the University’s disciplines, including humanities and biological and medical sciences.

“Our University now has the potential to build on these solid foundations and further establish itself as a world-leader in this important and rapidly growing field with the establishment of the new interdisciplinary Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI.”

The new centre has hosted an inaugural workshop – attracting more than 90 delegates – to bring a strategic focus to the robot and AI community at Manchester and look to share expertise and innovation. 

Professor Richard Curry, Vice-Dean for Research and Innovation at the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, formerly launched the centre. He said: “Robotics is now an important field that can be found in research areas across the University’s academic portfolio – which is not surprising, as robotic and autonomous systems are being applied in all parts of our lives.

“With the launch of this new Manchester centre of excellence in robotics and AI we are providing a new focus to our multi-disciplinary, world-class work in this field - and so, I encourage colleagues to take the opportunity to think big in terms of the direction of research.”



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