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24-11-2023 | Mechanics | In the Spotlight | Article

Germany Aiming to be One of the Leaders in AI-based Robotics

Author: Thomas Siebel

3 min reading time

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The future of robotics lies in autonomous systems that cooperate closely with humans in changing environments. With the Robotics Action Plan, the BMBF wants to make Germany internationally competitive.

Robotics already has a firm place in production and logistics. The main user in Germany is primarily the automotive industry, while internationally the electrical industry is also driving demand for robotics solutions. However, despite the continuing high demand, robotics is currently undergoing a transformation: until now, robots have mainly automated rigid work processes in structured and shielded environments.

However, significant advances in the basic technologies of artificial intelligence, microchips, sensors and actuators and edge computing are now opening up completely new perspectives for the robotics market, both inside and outside of factory halls. Easy-to-operate cobots interact with humans, while service robots are also increasingly being used in areas such as skilled trades, security research and health and care.

High Investments and Great Market Potential

According to the Boston Consulting Group, the robotics market will grow strongly over the next few years - from a turnover of 35 billion euros in 2023 to up to 230 billion euros in 2030. Anyone who wants to play in the premier league of robotics providers should also understand AI-based intelligent robotics. The European Institute of Innovation and Technology classifies cobots, humanoid or AI-based robots as deep technology, i.e. technology whose research and development still requires considerable investment before it can be commercialized, but which is already revealing its great market potential today.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) sees "huge potential for Germany" in the integration of AI in robotic systems, with its strong mechanical and plant engineering sector and important user industries. With the recently published Robotics Research Action Plan, the BMBF is now showing how Germany can also become an international leader in the field of AI-based robotics in the future. To this end, the Ministry wants to advance the German robotics ecosystem in the areas of basic technologies, cutting-edge research, skilled workers and application.

Making AI, Edge and 5G Usable

The basic technologies of AI, sensors, electronics, actuators, edge computing and 5G/6G mobile communications work closely together in AI-based robotics. Research and development projects are particularly dedicated to the question of how robots can learn dynamically in unstructured environments and communicate with each other and with humans in real time. Against this backdrop, the BMBF wants to promote research into sensory environment detection, low-latency control systems, sensor technologies and distributed computing architectures, among other things. The explainability, robustness and transfer learning of AI will also be researched.

Robotics Institute Germany to Bundle Expertise

Intelligent robotics brings together interdisciplinary knowledge from fields such as mathematics, computer science, data science and mechanical engineering. Although researchers in Germany are leaders in Europe, internationally competitive and highly cited, the numerous German research locations are comparatively less visible due to the decentralized structure.

This is set to change in the future with the establishment of the Robotics Institute Germany. It is intended to network existing cutting-edge research in Germany and harness synergies. The aim is to make Germany internationally visible in AI-based robotics and competitive with leading robotics centers such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The future tasks of the institute will include the development of research roadmaps and the handling of ethical, legal and social aspects of robotics.

The institute will also play an important role in the recruitment of specialists by developing and establishing an academy program with modules for academic and vocational education and training. The aim is to enable universities, vocational schools and further education institutions to make a leap forward in the quality of robotics teaching.

Developing New Applications

Important fields of application for AI-based robotics include automated production in industry and trade, human-robot collaboration, for example in care, civil security and use in harsh environmental conditions, for example as semi-autonomous rescue or decontamination robots for fire departments and disaster control. The BMBF intends to continue its funding activities in these areas.

In addition, the transfer from cutting-edge research to industry, particularly in SMEs, is to be accelerated with a new measure. Innovation competitions are intended to further accelerate the development of robotics demonstrators. The BMBF names deep-sea robotics, production-related robotics, soft robotics as well as agricultural and field robotics as specific fields of application that require further development.

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