Brussels, 10 Oct 2005
Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding has welcomed the launch of a European Technology Platform on robotics, saying that the industry must do more to highlight the potential services and functions offered by new robot applications.
The European Robotics Platform (EUROP) was launched in Brussels on 7 October. It brings together both large and small companies from diverse sectors - manufacturing, consumer goods, services, security and space - with the aim of jointly defining a strategic research agenda for the sector.
'I welcome this initiative and in particular the commitment of industry to invest together in research and to innovate in a field that is essential for the productivity and competitiveness of many manufacturing and service sectors in Europe,' said Commissioner Reding.
The use of robots has increased dramatically since they were first introduced into the automotive and other production industries in the 1960s, and today they carry out numerous tasks, from exploring Mars and the deep ocean to providing interactive entertainment to children. 'These changes are made possible by the progress of technologies such as sensing, cognition and control,' said Ms Reding, who described the development as 'technologically fascinating today, but [an] economical and societal imperative for tomorrow.'
The Commissioner argued that robots have the potential to carry out intelligent tasks for the service of people, rather than to replace people, for example by providing assistance to surgeons, helping elderly or disabled people, and by monitoring the security of borders and public infrastructures.
'I am convinced that under the right conditions, such robots having diverse forms will penetrate many of our everyday activities, just as mobile phones and computers are doing today. But for this to happen, we will need to make the new services and functions that these robots will bring much more visible,' said Ms Reding.
Europe still lacks a common approach in the robotics sector, and the industry still has a role to play in convincing governments of the importance of adequate funding for research and innovation. 'The time to act is now, before the Union's Financial Perspectives for the coming years are adopted,' warned Ms Reding.
By bringing together industrial actors of all sizes and from many different sectors, the Commissioner said the Technology Platform had sent a clear message to policy makers that they must also do more to support research and innovation in this field. 'We are willing to support and to advise, but it is up to you to do the work and to make the robotics platform a success,' she stressed.
Ms Reding expressed the hope that the EUROP Technology Platform would help to transform small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) into the large companies of tomorrow. She continued: 'This is a challenge for our researchers to further explore the crossroads between research in natural and artificial systems. But this is a challenge also for our industry.
'Europe has very strong brand names but companies outside Europe are often faster to adapt their business models to new market dynamics. [...] That you, business leaders in your sectors, are uniting your efforts around a common strategy is a very positive sign. I encourage you to go further, to take the unique opportunity now to develop jointly the strategic research agenda that will lead to innovation and better jobs in Europe,' Commissioner Reding concluded.
For further information on the EUROP Technology Platform, please visit: