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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Industrail research : robots for SMEs !

Research, Industry, Services, SME Policy,

News Nearly a million robots are used in major factories around the world. The EU-funded project "SMErobot" FP6 wants to give smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) similar access to robotics technology.

There are an estimated 23 million SMEs in the European Union providing over 75 million jobs and accounting for 99% of all enterprises . In some sectors, such as textiles and construction, they contribute up to 80% of employment. SMEs are also considered vital to achieving the Union’s revamped Lisbon goals of more and better growth and jobs. But to reach this target, smaller businesses need access to research and technologies which have traditionally been the reserve of their industrial-sized cousins. The current Framework Programme (FP6, 2002-2006) budgeted €430 million to support horizontal research activities involving SMEs. Robots perform a vast range of tasks in Europe’s factories, in warehouses and laboratories, on the docks and even in surgical theatres. While increasingly common in industry, due to the onerous set-up costs robots are not widely used in SMEs. The EU SMErobot project aims to develop new, inexpensive versions of industrial robots especially for SME needs. The four-year project includes leading research institutes, universities and the top five robot manufacturers in Europe. Thanks to increased automation, robots offer a number of advantages to industry, including high throughput and speed, generally better accuracy and improved safety conditions for staff. SMErobot – European robot initiative for strengthening the competitiveness of SMEs in manufacturing – plans to deliver many of these benefits to smaller factories in Europe as well. Being modular, the SME-suitable robots should be able to cope with a variety of applications , from processing wood, metal or ceramics, to drilling, sawing or lifting. But whether SMEs make use of the robot or not will be driven by more than function: it will also depend on cost. Ideally, the team notes, this should not be more than one-third of the amount that a conventional system would cost.

Source :  SMErobot


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