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European Academy for Marine and Underwater Robotics

Final Report Summary - ROBOCADEMY (European Academy for Marine and Underwater Robotics)

The establishment of a network of European competence centers in sub-sea robotics, the formation of experts in sub-sea robotics, and the development of advanced robotic technologies needed for the exploration of the oceans, these were the main objectives of the ROBOCADEMY ITN ( funded by the European Commission through the FP7 Marie Curie Programme. Between January 2014 and December 2017, the ROBOCADEMY European Training and Research Network for Underwater Robotics was supported by the Commission with approx. € 3.61 million. Coordinated by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), 10 of the leading European institutes and companies in sub-sea robotics worked together to help 13 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) pushing the state-of-the-art in sub-sea robotics technologies with the objective to achieve a doctoral degree.

Since 2014, the ROBOCADEMY network managed to significantly improve the coorperation within the disperse community of sub-sea and marine roboticists in Europe. On the institutional level, already existing connections between the partners were improved and new ones could be forged. New R&D cooperative projects were initiated and personnel was transferred between the participants.

For the ESRs, ROBOCADEMY provided not only the opportunity and the means to meet and network at conferences, workshops, seminars and other events, but also to work together and connect to other organizations in the network during extensive secondments.
As a main objective of ROBOCADEMY, much focus was given to the scientific and formal training of the ESRs. Over a period of three years, the ESRs attended up to nine scientific network training courses. Each course covered a relevant scientific topic. The courses were organized by the academic partners of ROBOCADEMY in different locations throughout Europe, often with participation of leading researchers in the field. The spectrum of courses reached from multi-day workshops and online courses to activities that were ongoing over the entire three years period.

Within each course, the ESRs had the chance to explore other institutes and companies in the network, make contact with the local researchers, and exchange ideas. The scientific training was accompanied by a soft-skills training programme where the ESRs could learn project management, presentation- and other non-technical, but essential, skills. A rich programme of social activities alongside the courses contributed to the bonding of the young researchers and the formation of a team spirit.

Each ESR had the opportunity to work on a scientifically challenging research topic, with the target to obtain a PhD in the field. The topics of the PhD programmes were chosen from the three scientific pillars and “action lines” of ROBOCADEMY, namely “Autonomy”, “Disturbance Rejection”, and “Perception”. Where possible, ESRs hosted by different organizations worked on complementary topics, making use of thematic synergies. In ROBOCADEMY, all ESRs worked towards a doctoral degree in the 36 months they were employed through the project. While only a couple of them could actually finish their thesis in this relatively short time frame, all of them plan to do so within no more than two years after the termination of ROBOCADEMY. The possibility to continue their research after ROBOCADEMY could be secured, either at their original host organizations or at another ROBOCADEMY partner, another prove that ROBOCADEMY works well as a professional network.

The success and impact of the ROBOCADEMY research programme is documented by the large number of publications: by the end of the project, the ESRs had published more than 70 scientific papers, with more than 25 of them in a journal or a book. The presentation of ROBOCADEMY research to the scientific community was accompanied by the dissemination of the project through presentations at European events (e.g. EMRA, ERF), participation in robotics competitions (SAUC-E, euRathlon), and active usage of social media.

The ROBOCADEMY consortium comprised 10 full partners / beneficiaries and 5 associated partners:
• DFKI Robotics Innovation Center (DE)
• Heriot-Watt University (UK)
• Tallinna Tehnikaülikool (EE)
• University of Girona (ES)
• Natural Environment Research Council (UK)
• NATO Science and Technology Organization (IT)
• National Technical University of Athens (GR)
• Atlas Electronics GmbH (DE)
• SeeByte Ltd. (UK)
• Graal Tech SRL (IT)

Associated partners:
• Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (DE)
• Univesitat Politècnica de Catalunya (ES)
• Subsea7 Ltd. (UK)
• Marine Systems Institute (ES)
• BP Exploration Operating Co., Ltd. (UK)

The Robocademy was funded under the Seventh European Research Framework Program as a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN).