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Robotics Coordination Action for Europe Two

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RockEU2 (Robotics Coordination Action for Europe Two)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2018-08-31

The project was built on the success of the RockEU coordination action funded under the FP7 programme together with the competition expertise generated within RoCKIn, EuRoC and Eurathlon. The primary objective was to move beyond community building and develop communication structures, mechanisms and resources that will enable the robotics stakeholders within Europe to build a viable global market.
This represented a shift in focus from the community building objectives to a greater emphasis on tasks focused on outreach and community enabling activities, addressing the emerging needs of the European robotics community.

The project addressed all objectives by deploying a set of basic tools:
- By organizing collaborative activities both with and for the community as well as for non-robotics stakeholders;
- Through the provision of Information dissemination processes;
- By identifying best practice and key trends within the community and internationally.

As the ultimate goal was to create sustainable growth within the European robotics industry, the project successfully developed a set of actions to:
- engage with the different sides of the European robotics community;
- increase awareness and spread interest among the youngest via public and well recognized events;
- establish strong links with each potential stakeholder organisation.
One main focus of the work in the second reporting period has been the implementation of the SPARC strategy, especially the preparation and complete overview of the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) as part of the DEI strategy. A Brokerage Day related to the robotics DIH calls 2018 has been organized in December 2017, and participants had the opportunity to present project ideas to attract partners with specific competencies. Those networks of partners were further exploited during ad-hoc workshops targeted on each DIH Priority Areas, paving the way for future project consortia. The positive impact of DIHs on European regions were highlighted thanks to strong links established with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), where two successful events – “Smart robotics for Smart Regions” and “European Robotics Week 2017 Central Event” – took place.
It has been recognised that AI and Cognition tools cut across to a greater extent than originally identified in the SRA 2013. In addition, work has been done to investigate alignment with the broader AI community and to engage in the assessment of AI and Cognition within the broader DEI framework. To this purpose a workshop has been held to strengthen the links between the robotics and AI stakeholders, paving the way for the AI Brokerage Day organized by the EC in December 2017. Additional workshops covering cross-cutting areas, such as ELSE, end-users and technology overview were organized to exploit all connections and reinforce existing networks, especially with European industries.
Work regarding innovation support and review of funded proposals and technology transfer was carried out. The service robotics market has been monitored in relation to manufacturers, market evolution, innovations and technology trends. Results have been made available to the community as an extended summary. Potential market barriers were identified and project partners have been involved in standardization activities.

A second meeting of the Outreach Advisory Board was dedicated to identifying relevant topics such as Education, ELSE and Competitions. All OAB findings and suggestions were channeled into a structured dissemination and outreach campaign targeting various stakeholders, including policy makers, end users, and the wider public with the aim to maximize the impact of all activities. Furthermore, major events such as the European Robotics Week (ERW), European Robotics Forum (ERF), and European Robotics League (ERL) acted as focal points of communication both internally to the robotics community and externally to potential stakeholders and the international community.

Competitions are known to have a significant impact on the development of systems. In the project, the European Robotics league (ERL) was formed and officially launched during the RoboCup in Leipzig, 2016. The ERL aims to provide a platform for challenging, developing and showcasing robotics technologies, and engage not only with the robotics community, but also with industry and society and helps developing further the skills of the engineers of tomorrow. One of the most innovative aspects of the ERL is the time and geographical distribution of tournaments over a year, leading to scores and standings which are the cumulative result of participation events. Requirements for a portable ERL Emergency Robots, and draft specification, have been developed. Two seasons of the competitions successfully took place, and all winners were awarded at a public ceremony at ERF2017 and ERF2018. One of the competitions main event, ERL Emergency Robots 2017 was not only a complex and challenging robotics competition, but also an international robotics event for both technical and general public, generating outreach to increase awareness of the role and potential of robotics in our society.
A key goal of the project was to disseminate information to the European robotics community and carry out engagement activities with current and future stakeholders be they organisations, users or End Users. This was a primary focus for much of the project since the desired outcome was to deliver greater community engagement, higher levels of technology transfer and to engage End Users in market driven research and development. The creation of a closed loop between market pull and technology push resulting in market driven research is an important part of closing the innovation cycle and gearing up impact. Identifying technology transfer options and the needs of End Users together with the development of brokerage services all contributed to increasing Industry-Academia cross fertilization and improving the link between End Users and innovation providers.
The expansion of robotics into the domestic market is only just beginning. For longer term applications such as elderly care there are also significant social barriers to surmount. In many cases public awareness and perception are limiting factors in the market, and in terms of technology the lack of well-established supply chains and the lack of skilled engineers all have the potential to impact on growth in the domestic robotics sector. Therefore the prime objectives within this project of improving outreach, skills and innovation have had a significant impact on the potential for Europe to grow market share in domestic service robotics.
To help achieve these goals the project organized more than 20 thematic workshops whose findings were then channeled into targeted dissemination tools. A vast majority of the workshops have been organized in the context of major community engagement events (ERW, ERF, ERL) maximizing their impact and paving the way for stronger synergies with other EU initiatives. As a result, it can be estimated that the project reached out to over 50.000 citizens. Thus, a major outcome of the project is a better informed European Robotics Community, with better access to the information that it needs to build a viable robotics industry in Europe.