Robots with a gentle touch

February 11, 2000

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University's department of mechanical and chemical engineering are using flexible materials to allow robots to grasp or select delicate objects without damaging them.

The technology has a vast range of potential applications from the medical and nuclear fields to robotic home-helps. It was showcased this week at the launch of the second phase of Scotland's ten-year strategy to commercialise academic research.

Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, said:

"For years, American institutions have reaped enormous benefits by commercially exploiting the ideas developed in their research programmes. Now every Scottish higher education institution takes commercialisation seriously, and there is evidence that our better universities compare favourably with their counterparts in the United States.

"Technology Ventures Scotland will act as an interface between the academic and business worlds and accelerate the release of commercial potential in our universities."

John McClelland, a 30-year veteran of high-tech business who is now senior vice-president of global IT company 3Com, will head Technology Ventures Scotland. The steering group includes members from the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Executive.

John Archer, principal of Heriot-Watt University, said higher education institutions had consistently delivered world-class research but without the right partnerships such research had failed to emerge from the laboratory to the marketplace.

"Technology Ventures Scotland builds valuably on the links made between the key partners. It has potentially a very significant role to play in Scotland's future prosperity."

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