1. ROBOTT-NET VISION AND THE PILOT CALL
The goal of ROBOTT-NET is to accelerate the path to market for new robotics technologies, increasing the competitiveness of Europe’s manufacturing sector and giving rise to multiple new business opportunities in industrial and service robotics.
ROBOTT-NET will develop and test mechanisms for sharing expertise and physical research infrastructures, and a unique multidisciplinary approach that enhances cross-fertilisation of ideas between academia and industry. Through ROBOTT-NET, four major European Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) join forces to offer a unique opportunity to develop business ideas to their full potential, based on innovative robot technology. DTI, Tecnalia, Fraunhofer IPA and the MTC offer their aggregated capabilities in technology, infrastructure, relationships and business development for entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMEs and corporations, being either robot Technology Developers or End Users. We transform successful national structures and mechanisms used by RTOs in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the UK; merging them into a Europe wide, composite, technology transfer system.
ROBOTT-NET seeks to accelerate the path to market for new robotic technologies (see Figure below).
In the first place this involves identifying and promoting state-of-the-art industrial and professional service robot technologies to over 1,200 robot Technology Developers (from industry and academia), and End Users in a bidirectional exchange of views and opinions about robotic research trends, needs and technology developments, and soliciting participation in ROBOTT-NET. The second stage involves developing a business case to assess the feasibility for business opportunities coming from both Technology Developers and End Users. The third stage consists of Pilot validation, implementing first field trials and producing complete robotic automation solutions at End User sites. The final stage is the completion to a product launch, facilitated within ROBOTT-NET but happening outside project control.
Through the ROBOTT-NET initiative and the outlined four-step development process Europe is directly tackling the challenges of the “Valley of Death” and push promising robot technologies into industry.
CROSSING THE “VALLEY OF DEATH”
The “Valley of Death” exists because the goal of university research is normally satisfied (the scientific questions have been answered) once a technology functions well enough to produce measurable results in the lab. However, industry cannot deploy a technology unless it has a convincing business case and it is sufficiently proven; involving criteria such as robustness, reliability under the full range of normal factory conditions, meeting worker safety regulations, usability, ability to integrate with the existing production system, and having known performance criteria.
ROBOTT-NET aims to provide and test a set of sustainable Europe-wide structures and mechanisms for crossing the “Valley of Death”, primarily by: finding the perfect match between market opportunities and new technology, developing a good business case and putting together a comprehensively skilled team, and getting the field trial started. The first step towards this goal has been through the Voucher work. This will be enhanced further by starting consortium led medium- scale experiments in industrially relevant scenarios taking novel state-of-art technologies into technology demonstration systems at End User sites, what ROBOTT-NET calls Pilots.
The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale provides a method to estimate the maturity of technology on its journey to full commercial readiness. The European Commission’s definition of the scale starts at TRL 1 where basic principles are observed and concludes at TRL 9 where the actual system is proven in an operational environment. The Voucher work within ROBOTT-NET was based around TRL4 where technology was validated in the lab environment, without exposure to the conditions of an operational environment. The Pilot work aims to develop the technologies identified and explored in the Voucher stage by a further two TRL steps to at least TRL6, applying them to an industrially relevant environment on End User applications at near desired specification in terms of performance, volume, speed etc.
2. ROBOTT-NET PILOT CALL
The application process described in this guide is designed to help you create a successful application for a ROBOTT-NET Pilot. The Pilot will help you to develop your Voucher work through proof of concept level and accelerate it towards commerciality. All enterprises that have made sufficient progress within their Voucher work are encouraged to apply for a Pilot.
A ROBOTT-NET Pilot will be a medium-scale research prototype installation, lasting for up to 18 months, developing the technology and business case explored in the Voucher stage and applying it to an industrial application demonstration at the End User’s site. A Pilot could include new disruptive robotics technology applied to an existing commercial sector, or established robotics technology applied to a new application field.
Each Pilot will demonstrate the feasibility of the novel technology or new application by building and developing a prototype robot/automation system, improving the technology by at least two TRL steps and achieve a minimum TRL6. TRL6 is defined as a prototype demonstration of a technology system/subsystem in a relevant environment that is near the desired specification in terms of performance, volume, speed etc. It is not expected that a Pilot will achieve full commercial implementation or production reliability during the project duration but higher TRL levels are desirable to aid the End User’s application and the further exploitation of the technology.
ROBOTT-NET is looking for Pilots that will scale well across new applications and create high impact on markets through enhanced productivity, competition and disruption. Both scalability and market impact are key measures in the Pilot application.
A defining purpose of the ROBOTT-NET Pilots is to develop long-term relationships between European organisations that outlast the Pilots and provide future development opportunities to the consortium members. Pilot leaders can build their consortium in a number of ways depending on their preference and past experience, any organisation registered within the EU member states or associated countries are eligible and there is no limit to the number of organisations that can join a consortium, however to qualify Pilots require a minimum of two organisations. ROBOTT-NET RTOs can have a role of Technology Developer but they cannot receive the grant funding available to third parties.
If you are an End User, you will need to find a Technology Developer, most likely in the form of a system integrator or machine builder that will be able to support you and the technology you need during and after the Pilot has finished. If you are a Technology Developer, you will need to find a potential customer who can provide you with the business need and a demonstration site during the Pilot.
Applicants can approach organisations new to ROBOTT-NET from their own networks. Alternatively, the ROBOTT-NET web page is a good place to start looking for companies that match your consortium needs and your coordinating RTO can facilitate initial contact.
A Pilot application must include a consortium of the following roles to be considered for selection;
End User: An individual or company with the business need who defines the commercial application and is willing to host the prototype system for the duration of the Pilot stage
Technology Developer: An individual or company that can lead or support the technological development of the prototype system during and after the Pilot stage work is complete
A company may take on more than one role but the consortium must consist of at least two companies, applications with consortium involving more partners are considered stronger during assessment.
Each Pilot application must identify a single Voucher holding company to lead the consortium and act as the lead point of communication. Only one Pilot application can be submitted per Voucher. Any European company, including Voucher holders, may participate as a third party in multiple Pilots, but the grant funding is capped per third party, see Pilot Funding section.
Technology Strands are a method for ROBOTT-NET to classify the dominant robotic technologies used within a Pilot, they are intended to be industry agnostic and can be applied across many applications in many fields, i.e. pick and place technology, such as 3D bin picking, is suitable in manufacturing, healthcare and logistics applications. Similarly, mobile robots can provide logistics services in manufacturing, healthcare and many other industries.
Applicants, under guidance from their partner RTOs should choose up to two Technology Strands that represent the dominant and secondary technology category required in the problem they are trying to solve.
We have distinguished 7 category strands:
Assembly and manipulating is defined as the controlled movement and specific orientation of component parts into manufacturing assemblies, tooling or other processes
Pick and place is defined as the movement parts from structured and unstructured storage to a new desired location, not requiring any additional process steps.
Automated processes are defined as any physical process, manufacturing or otherwise, that have been automated, requiring less human intervention and less time to complete, and specifically excludes pick and place, manipulating and assembly tasks.
Mobile robotics is defined as any automated platform with a mobility within its location, which includes the functional features of sensing, perception and reacting to changes within the environment.
Inspection and checking is defined as the use of robotics and automation to perform measurement task and comparisons of target parts against nominal data models.
New generation of robotics is defined as the creation of novel robotics or the use of robotics in new applications, outside of the traditional established markets, such as collaborative robotics, service and healthcare robotics.
Sensing and mapping is defined as the specific use of technology to sense, perceive, model and localise a robot or automated system within a dynamic and changing environment.
Other – This category is for robotics technologies that do not fit within the other strands.
ROBOTT-NET’s aim is that no one Technology Strand should dominate any other during Pilot selection and the Steering Committee will use the Technology Strands identified in the application to decide the fair balance of Pilots during the final selection.
Each Pilot will receive up to 3,500 person-hours from their partner RTOs. The actual amount of time, effort and level of resourcing required will be dependent on each Pilot and will be determined by the RTOs involved during the planning stage of a successful Pilot application.
The Pilot consortium i.e. system integrators, machine builders, End Users, and any other Technology Developers needed - are financed as third parties, up to a maximum of €60,000 per third party to a total of €150,000 per Pilot. The maximum grant funding available for equipment is set at 10% of the Pilot total, €15,000, and is not meant to be used for large capex purchases, such as robots and machines. Third party funding is expected to be used for the development of Pilot systems which includes the installation, test and commissioning of the system including:
Design (based on End User Voucher work if available)
Manufacture & Installation
Test & commissioning
The End User or Technology Developer company should add their own funding if the Pilot requires large capex items (e.g. major equipment) or if the company wishes to continue development to higher TRLs. Everything purchased, including hardware, purchased within a Pilot from grant funding belongs to the companies of the consortium.
Whilst the RTOs will be highly involved in developing and maturing the Pilot technology, the funding is limited to €60,000 per third party as an incentive to build consortia and to encourage lasting commitment and engage members in a Pilot at the relatively high-risk stage. A company participating as a third party in multiple Pilots is limited to a total of €60,000.
Pilot grant funding will be paid as reimbursement for hours and equipment which can be documented and is reasonable and required for the progress of the Pilot according to project plan. Funding is claimed by consortium partners on a quarterly basis, at the end of each financial quarter, for milestones completed in the period. Payments for successful claims will be made to each partner according to their Coordinating RTO’s standard payment terms. Start-up companies with limited cash reserves should discuss their options with their coordinating RTO.
Companies may only claim funding through the completion of project milestones, as declared in the project plan submitted with the Pilot application. Ideally, a Pilot should have a minimum of 6 milestones over the 18 month duration, at least one per quarter. Each Pilot’s coordinating RTO is responsible for verifying and recording the successful completion of each milestone to allow consortium partners to claim their funding.
All pilots will be managed as individual development projects, with a project manager, milestone plan and IPR agreements. Each Pilot requires a high-level task-based plan and it is expected that most projects will include a main phase of development up until an initial proof of concept, followed by a final involvement at the End User sites.