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The European Robotics Research Infrastructure Network

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - TERRINet (The European Robotics Research Infrastructure Network)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2021-11-30

The European Robotics Research Infrastructures Network (TERRINet) Project aims at building a unique distributed and world-class Robotics Research Infrastructure with harmonized services and complementary capabilities where talented researchers from academia and industry will have access and will be able: to explore new ideas; to get in contact with and be inspired by leading and creative scientists, technologists, experts, and industry representatives; to share information and gain knowledge for boosting their scientific research and potential for technological innovation.
Europe is an undisputed leader in Robotics: it has nurtured a large community of researchers, educated many thousand students, created large and small companies, and established advanced facilities for conducting scientific research and contributing to technological innovation. However, despite significant efforts and achievements, the existing Robotics facilities are not fully synchronized, and lack common procedures, thus hampering their enormous potential for world-class research and innovation. Indeed, creating a Robotics Research Infrastructure is realistic, timely, and essential in the current and future landscape of Robotics.
During a four-year project lifetime, TERRINet will provide harmonized access, use, and sharing of platforms, knowledge, technologies, and resources (both human and technical) to different groups of users, irrespective of location. TERRINet will set up an integrated infrastructure managed as a whole, in response to the need of European Robotics researchers.
The plan of TERRINet is to accomplish its vision by providing not only an organized and well-orchestrated set of facilities but also databases, tools, and methodologies which will remain operational after the end of the project, so as to provide a long-term service to Robotics science and industry in Europe and worldwide.
The most relevant milestone achieved within the TERRINet Project during the first year of Project is the implementation of a Starting Community of Robotics Research Infrastructures sharing platforms, knowledge, and facilities in several robotics fields. This Community is composed of thirteen Robotics institutions from seven EU countries and one Associated Country (Switzerland), possessing different and complementary expertise and offering 15 high-quality facilities with 100+ platforms in various fields of Robotics.

The activities carried out during the RP1 (M1-M18, December 2017-May 2019) include i) the management of the Project and of the fruitful interactions among the partners (i.e organization and participation in periodic meetings), ii) the regulation and the management of the Trans-National Accesses (TNA), iii) the dissemination of the Project and its results, iv) the establishment of two relevant committees, that are the ELES (Ethical, Legal, Economic, and Social) committee and the TTTC (TERRINet Technology Transfer Committee), v) the selection of an independent Ethics Expert (EE) in charge of the WP10 “Ethics requirements” and vi) the identification and the setting up of the Data Management Plan.
The Consortium established a set of harmonized access procedures and guidelines to select users through a Call-based procedure and drafted the so-called TERRINet Handbook (D2.2). The TERRINet Consortium also defined the evaluation criteria and built a database of evaluators with an expertise in several robotics fields able to assess the proposals with fairness and impartiality. The TERRINet Consortium prepared a set of useful documents to be provided to users in preparation for TNA and the appropriate documents to manage the access (Annexes to the D2.2). Furthermore, with the support of an independent Ethics Expert, a Research Ethics Approval Procedure was established to assess the applications to the Calls with respect to the Ethics aspects.

The activities carried out during the RP2 (M19-M36, June 2019-November 36) include i) continuous technical and financial management of the Project and of the fruitful interactions among the partners (i.e organization and participation in periodic meetings, and unifying events), ii) the management of the TERRINet Open Calls and of the TNA, iii) a boosted dissemination of the Project and of its outcomes to maximize impact, iv) the reinforcement of the activities of two relevant committees, that are the ELES (Ethical, Legal, Economic, and Social) committee and the TTTC (TERRINet Technology Transfer Committee), v) the implementation of the Data Management Plan.

At the end of RP1+RP2, 6 TERRINet Open Calls were launched, counting 100+ proposals submitted, 71 users selected for TNA, 25 projects already implemented and completed. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic severely affected the TNA and the provision of training, in particular the inability to travel. Different measures to reduce the impact of any delay caused by the pandemic were implemented. In particular, we "converted" in-person events (i.e. access and training) into remote or virtual events; we started realizing the TERRINet Platforms video-tutorials, in order to provide remote access to the TERRINet platform; we continued selecting users who are waiting in a queue to access the TERRINet Infrastructures as soon as the pandemic will be over.

The dissemination and communication plan was complemented with an intensive Social Media communication campaign, including visibility to the TERRINet Success Stories and to the granted users who completed access.
The expected results of the TERRINet Project are listed as follows:
1. to build a European Robotics “super-facility” comprised of a distributed network of Robotics facilities and platforms, supported by a shared common framework; it will serve as a multi-disciplinary, trans-national and unique environment to facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas and sharing of excellent scientific research where users can take advantage, with widespread access, of a number of forefront research services and methodologies;
2. to enable different users (researchers, entrepreneurs, students, …) to obtain easy access to various platforms at providers’ infrastructures with formalized and structured common procedures and standards to fully exploit their potential and multiply their impact on research and innovation;
3. to provide a multi-disciplinary and transnational environment able to facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas and sharing of research results by providing the necessary best practices and tool for research reproducibility and solutions;
4. to launch joint training programs for higher education and training of researchers, for attracting young researchers and students (with particular attention to female participation) towards Robotics science and engineering careers.
Impact on Technology: acceleration of innovation take-up and industrial exploitation of research results, including the roadmap-based application research performed under SPARC guidance.
Impact on Society: the materialization of a new vision of Society and Welfare based on new Robotic Science and Technology.
Impact on Economy: fostering of a new wave of economic growth in Europe, by capitalizing on the European solid tradition in manufacturing.