European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development Plus Plus - More information at www.echord.eu
Europe has a long tradition of outstanding research and manufacturing in robotics. However, finding common ground between manufacturers and the research community has proven difficult in the past. Defining the future direction of robotics research has posed a real challenge.
ECHORD (European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development) was installed as an incubator to promote innovation by facilitating the cooperation between academia and industry. ECHORD++ (European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development Plus Plus), the follow-up project, will further promote this interaction between robot manufacturers, researchers and users. This goal will be achieved by implementing three different instruments: the Experiments, Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP) and the Robotics Innovation Facilities (RIF).
These tools are tailor-made to meet the needs of innovative robotics technologies of the manufacturing industry, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with small lot sizes and the need for highly flexible solutions, and public bodies, looking for robotics technology with basic functions at competitive prices for tender processes. In all cases, the research will be done by academic partners or research institutes in conjunction with the potential user of the robotics technology. ECHORD++ is coordinated by Prof. Alois Knoll, Technichal University of Munich.
The Robotics Innovation Facilities (RIFs)
Robotics Innovation Facilities (RIFs) are facilities for bringing researchers and industry in direct contact with current and new users of robotic technologies. They are actual physical facilities which will be located at three of the ECHORD++ core consortium members’ premises in Great Britain, Italy and France.
RIFs will provide equipment to conduct model experiments such as software and hardware platforms, as well as profound knowledge for system integration so that applications can be developed rapidly. They will monitor the benchmark, for example, for system robustness, and support standardization efforts. The RIFs will offer easy and non-bureaucratic access to robotic equipment, as well as to experts to support bootstrapping. These experts will also encourage knowledge exchange for everyone and anyone who is interested in robotics – no matter how "unexposed" to robotics they were.
The RIFs will serve as "seed crystals" for the interaction of researchers, industry participants, customers, and potential new users (from all areas) with the firm objective to build an "Innovation Ecology".They will add value by partnering new customers, users, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and investors with roboticists with minimum entrance barrier, so that new communities can form, market potential can be investigated, and SMEs can have a platform for promoting their ideas by attracting investment capital.
The ultimate goal of ECHORD++ is to stimulate the interaction between robot manufacturers, researchers and the users to produce tangible results that go beyond "proof of concept". Cooperative research is done in small, mixed consortia, based on actual use cases. After a maximum duration of 18 months, tangible results will be achieved.
All European universities, research institutions, and companies will have the opportunity to apply for funding in a competitive process in two calls, the first of which will be on 3rd March 2014.
The call will be open for six weeks, 3rd March 2014 – 14th April 2014, and within the first 3 weeks it will be possible to submit a pre-proposal (a sketch of the proposal idea) and receive feedback within three to five business days after submission.
The selection and operation of the experiments will be managed according to the successful best practices established in ECHORD. As within ECHORD, the ECHORD++ experiments will be guided by scenarios and foci:
- Cognitive Tools and Workers for Cognitive Factories
- General Purpose Robotic Co-workers
- Cognitive Logistics Robots for Industry
- Medical Robotics
- Agricultural and Food Robotics
- Urban Robotics
- Key Issues in Practical Machine Cognition
- Key Advanced Perception and Action Capabilities
- Multiple Cooperating Mobile Manipulators
- System Architectures, Systems and Software Engineering, Processes and Tools
Pre-Commercial Procurement Pilots
It has been proven that by acting as technologically demanding first buyers, public procurers can drive innovation from the demand side. Since public bodies often have specific requirements for the products they use, ECHORD++ will strive to find the best way to integrate them in the product development process. This is to make sure that the product meets the requirements of the target group, technically and price-wise.
Thus, ECHORD++ hopes to close the innovation gap between what is available on the market and the public sector’s needs. From these possible scenarios, – robotic solutions in hospitals, train stations, airports, harbor areas, public buildings or to improve the quality of life in the cities and towns – ECHORD++ has selected the following, Smart Cities and Healthcare, to be our focus for the next five years. The demonstrations can be done in the RIFs or in selected public facilities. The PCP process will be applied for robotics R&D&I, resulting in demonstrable prototypes.
According to ECHORD++'s calls for application, mixed consortia of robotic manufacturers and research institutes will have the opportunity to apply for funding in a competitive process. The goal will be to find a solution for two real-case scenarios.