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UK Robotics and Automation Market

19-04-2004
UK Robotics and Automation Market

UK Robotics and Automation Market

By Stephen Metti, UK Trade & Investment

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The UK’s robot sector is driven by system integrators who buy robots and manipulators from foreign manufacturers, and then design, manufacture, install and maintain turnkey systems for their clients within the UK.  The UK market is dominated by foreign manufacturers of robots used in the automotive sector and similar markets. 

UNECE’s 2003 World Robotics survey highlighted some of the potential problems in the UK, identifying that robot use in the UK is lagging way behind the rest of Europe (www.unece.org/press/pr2003/03stat_p06e.pdf).  However, figures published in January by the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA) demonstrated an upward trend in the numbers of robots sold in the UK for the first time in three years. 

Although just over 800 units were sold in the UK in 2003, this is still 33% down on 2000, a record year when over 1200 robot units were sold into manufacturing.  The head of BARA, Dr Ken Young, highlights that “over the last four years the biggest application area for robots has become materials handling rather than spot welding” which demonstrates that “industries other than automotive are starting to realise the benefits of the technology".

Key areas of expertise in the UK include the development of flexible automation systems for the life science industry – including biorobotics – and robotics for the pharmaceutical sector.  The UK also leads in the design and development of robots for bomb disposal work and associated security uses. 

Global Partnerships Programme

The Global Partnerships Programme is an initiative sponsored by the UK Government to create partnerships between the world’s most innovative technology-led organisations and their UK peers.  It can help overseas organisations of any size to find partners, especially if your organisation has:

  • A highly innovative technology or product to offer
  • Offering significant value-add to potential UK partners
  • Creating a partnership leading to technology transfer

Global Partnerships Programme – Case Study

Through the Programme, the details of four potential UK partner companies were delivered to Trans-Quip Inc., based in Canada.  Transquip had developed the unique OSA-LATOR robotic indexing table which employs an orbital gearing system rather than a servo or cam drive like most other indexing/rotary tables.  The OSA-LATOR indexing table was also essentially “plug and play” and, unlike servo driven tables, did not require outside controllers or programming. 

Trans-Quip sought a UK manufacturer of similar positioning equipment to form a strategic alliance to develop their product technology concept for use within the UK.  Both parties would benefit from knowledge and technology transfer, and joint product development initiatives. Trans-Quip were looking to identify manufacturing partners whose current product line would be complemented by the OSA-LATOR table and headstock/tailstock unit. Potential partners also required knowledge and contacts within the automotive market, welding and tooling experience, technically skilled staff for servicing industrial equipment and ISO registration. 

For further information on the Global Partnerships Programme, or UK Trade & Investment  assistance for Danish companies,  please contact Stephen Metti, UK Trade & Investment, tel: 35 44 52 91, fax: 35 44 52 46, email: stephen.metti@fco.gov.uk

Further Sources of Information

The IEE’s Robotics and Mechatronics Resource gives information on the key players in the robotics and mechatronics field, their areas of interest and how to contact them.  It also provides links to the major academic teams working in robotics and mechatronics within the UK.
www.iee.org/oncomms/pn/mechatronics/activity/index.cfm


The website of the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA) provides a voice for the robotics and automation industries, although the site is a little dated.
www.bara.org.uk


Information on UKTI’s Global Partnerships Programme is detailed on this website and provides information on the accessing help and assistance.
www.invest.uk.com/investor_services/global.cfm

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