The world's first Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) for agri-food robotics is being established by the University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £6.6 million for the new Centre, which will see a massive influx of high-level robotics expertise at a vital time for the agri-food industry. The CDT will provide funding and training for at least 50 doctoral students, who will be supported by major industry partners and specialise in areas such as autonomous mobility in challenging environments, the harvesting of agricultural crops, soft robotics for handling delicate food products, and 'co-bots' for maintaining safe human-robot collaboration and interaction in farms and factories.
Professor Tom Duckett, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Lincoln, is the new Centre Director. "Automation and robotics technologies are set to transform global industries - within the UK alone they will add £183 billion to the economy over the next decade. Agri-food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK - twice the scale of automotive and aerospace combined - supporting a food chain, from farm to fork, which generates a Global Value Added (GVA) of £108 billion, with 3.9 million employees in a truly international industry.”
"However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions, and the demographics of an ageing population in advanced economies. Addressing these challenges requires a new generation of highly skilled RAS researchers and leaders, and our new CDT will be dedicated to delivering those expertise. It will be a real focal point for robotics innovation in the UK."
At Lincoln, the CDT represents an important partnership between robotics researchers from the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) and agricultural experts from the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT), as they work together to combat these pressing issues facing the global food chain.
The Centre brings together a unique collaboration of leading researchers from the Universities of Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia, located at the heart of UK agri-food business, together with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, supported by leading industrial partners and stakeholders from across the food, farming and robotics industries. These include John Deere, Syngenta, G's Growers, Beeswax Dyson, ABB and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.
It is one of 75 new CDTs to be funded by the EPSRC (part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)) in what is hailed as one of the country's most significant investments in research skills, designed to equip the UK with the next generation of doctoral level researchers it needs across the breadth of the engineering and physical sciences landscape.
In the new CDT in Agri-Food Robotics, all 50 students will follow a common foundational year, studying on the new MSc Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Lincoln. Then 20 of the students will carry out their PhD studies at Lincoln, 20 at Cambridge, and 10 at UEA. The wide-scale engagement with industry will enable the students' research to be pushed rapidly towards real-world applications in the agri-food industry.
For more information:
University of Lincoln
Lincoln LN6 7TS - UK
Telephone: +44 (0)1522 882000