The UK government announced on Sunday that it planned to invest £26.6 million (€29.5 million) in infrastructure maintenance robots.
Minister for Science Chris Skidmore declared that the investment would be spread across 15 projects developing robots for a variety of industrial purposes, including maintenance at offshore wind farms and repairing underground pipe networks. Other projects included in the funding drive will develop and create infrastructure maintenance robots capable of repairing roads with significantly less traffic disruption than repairs carried out by humans; carrying out inspection and maintenance on satellites in orbit; and autonomously monitoring aquatic conditions.
£7.2 million (€8 million) will be invested in a collaborative research programme between scientists at Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds universities, developing technology to enable infrastructure maintenance robots to find and repair cracks in underground pipes. By creating micro-robots around a centimetre long, which will be able to make repairs in pipes without disrupting roads above ground, the project aims to save the country money in the long term: roadworks cost the UK economy an estimated £5 billion (€5.5 billion) per year.
Skidmore said: “While for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future. From deploying robots in our pipe network, so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better. Experts in our top UK universities across the country are well equipped to develop this innovative new technology.”
The funding for innovation and development of infrastructure maintenance robots will be provided by the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, an initiative aiming to bring together the UK’s leading research bodies with business to meet current and future industrial and societal challenges; and delivered by UK Research and Innovation. The UK’s industrial strategy, part of the government’s £4.7 billion investment in research and development over four years, is geared towards investing in future technologies to help create highly skilled jobs around the country.