Proposals need to extend the current state of the art of individual HRC to work environments where robots and workers function as members of the same team throughout the factory.
Proposals should cover two of the following three areas:
- Integration in industrial production environments of novel human-centred designed smart mechatronic systems such as for example soft robotics for high payloads;
- Implementation of novel artificial intelligence technologies capable of massive information processing and reacting in real-time to enable new levels of autonomy, navigation, cognitive perception and manipulation for robots to collaborate with humans in the process;
- Development of methods for robotic hazard assessment and risk management to clarify trade-offs between productivity and safety for mixed human-robot smart devices environments.
Proposals need also to take into account Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) elements regarding human-related barriers for the uptake of smart mechatronic systems including robot technology in industrial environments such as ergonomics, user experience, comfort, trust, feeling of safety and liability in modern production facilities, taking into account age and gender aspects.
Proposals submitted under this topic should include actions designed to facilitate cooperation with other projects; to enhance user involvement; and to ensure the accessibility and reusability of data produced in the course of the project.
Activities should start at TRL 4 and achieve TRL 6 at the end of the project.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 6 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC) on the factory floor has a high potential economic impact for European industry.
Past research to implement HRC in an industrial setting concentrated largely on safety of humans, allowing workers and robots to share working space without fences. Most of the developments started from existing industrial robotic arms, augmenting it with technologies to make it safe for humans to interact with the robot. This has already led to production environments with safe interaction between humans and robots. However genuine collaboration between humans and robots require more holistic solutions encompassing smart mechatronic systems designed to improve the quality of the job performed and to increase flexible production. Such systems have not yet been demonstrated for manufacturing purposes.
In order to move from a structured factory floor where robots work behind closed fences to an open environment with smart mechatronic systems and humans collaborating closely, interdisciplinary research in the fields of robotics, cognitive sciences and psychology is required, also taking into account regulatory aspects. More attention has to be paid to develop novel inherently-safe robotic concepts where collaboration with humans is taken up already in the design phase. In order for effective HRC to be taken up by industry, beyond safety aspects, including ergonomics, adaptability, liability issues, inclusiveness of vulnerable workers, acceptability and feedback from users need to be considered in a holistic way.
- Demonstrating the potential to bring back production to Europe;
- 15% increase in OECD Job Quality Index through work environment and safety improvement;
- 20% reduction in production reconfiguration time and cost.
Relevant indicators and metrics, with baseline values, should be clearly stated in the proposal.