SMEs can win €200k funding for their technology

‘Does your robot have the potential to unlock real-life F&B challenges?’

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

LMS Competence Center. Photo: ESMERA.
LMS Competence Center. Photo: ESMERA.
The European Commission launched the ESMERA (European SMEs Robotics Applications) project this year and is offering €200k ($232,000) to European Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) who have robot technology that can unlock real-life problems.

As part of the European Commission´s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, The EU-funded robotics project has opened its first call for proposals​ from now until October 31.

Nine months

The testing and evaluation phase will last nine months and there will be a second open call with new challenges from Energy, Manufacturing, Construction and Agri-Food in November 2019.

Dr. Sotiris Makris, head, LMS Group on Robots, Automation and Virtual Reality in Manufacturing, at Patras University in Greece, said the idea behind the ESMERA project is to set up a mechanism for facilitating the research and development of robotics technologies by European SMEs.  

Robotics and automation have already started to shape all companies’ workforces and they continue to reshape them,​” he said.

In the beginning, some repetitive jobs in production environment were replaced by robots which were placed in cages and the robots have become more and more intelligent and safer nowadays​.”

Makris added in today’s manufacturing, you can see human-machine teams as well. With the idea of Industry 4.0, the production environment will be highly flexible and safer and will be controlled or monitored by Cyber-Physical Systems.

“Robots will more and more able to communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans, and will be used by more actors of the value chain. Especially high risk jobs can be replaced by robots in the near future,”​ he said.

And the trend doesn´t stop here, there are also strong and fast developments in service robots, humanoids and medical robots.

Since SMEs are generally regarded as the backbone of the EU industry, there is a requirement to stimulate SMEs in the robotics sector to develop novel and innovative technology that has the potential to solve business challenges and at the same time open new markets​.” 

Eight challenges

The ESMERA project focuses on EU SMEs oriented towards the development of novel technologies and are in need of technical and business support to take their ideas to market. 

“ESMERA introduces the notion of user-led challenges. Challenges have been formulated by EU companies and user organizations in different sectors relevant to the technological needs of companies in robotics and automation,”​ he added.

Key European companies have defined eight real-life industrial challenges that need innovative robotics in four areas; Energy, Manufacturing, Construction and Agri-food.

The Selection Process will be carried out in two competitive phases.

·         Phase I: ​16 projects, so called experiments, will be selected to compete in proving their concept.

·         Phase II:​ 8 winners are selected. They gain industrial leadership and business support to advance their path towards industrializing and commercializing their solutions.

SMEs can propose an experiment on their own or form a small consortium of up to two partners, teaming up with R&D organizations or other companies supplementing their competences. For both phases combined, each team can receive up to €200k of funding.

To boost the technology development by European SMEs, four robotics Competence Centers (CCs) have opened their doors to ESMERA with robotic equipment, test environments and expertise, bridging the gap between research and industry:

  • Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems and Automation (LMS) at the University of Patras (Project Coordinator)
  • Commissarat à l´Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEA)
  • Technische Universität München (TUM)

Three facilitators in robotics; Blue Ocean Robotics; COMAU and R.U. Robots; have successfully undergone the process themselves will provide mentoring and support in developing business cases and managing the complete chain from idea to market.      

ESMERA focuses on the following challenge areas, in which new markets for robotic technologies may emerge or already are emerging: energy, manufacturing, agri-food and construction​,” said Makris.

The selected sectors represent a significant portion of the EU economy and related production activities. In total, eight challenges out of these sectors have been defined and are ready to be solved by robotic innovation.

The challenges have been selected due to their potential of boosting robotic innovation. We expect applicants to deliver fresh and new ideas fostering the development of robotics​.

The challenges provide space for creative approaches that can be done by multiple perspectives. We are really looking forward to getting inspired by new and innovative ideas of the applicants. But the focus of course is to get that real challenge solved​."

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