The University of Manchester and US-based Jacobs plan to establish a new international research centre – The Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments (CRADLE) – that will play a key role in climate response. CRADLE will develop robotics and autonomous systems and will research new technologies for challenging and heavily regulated industry sectors such as space, nuclear decommissioning, energy generation and urban infrastructure.

The centre will be co-funded to a total value of $11m over five years by Jacobs, the University of Manchester and the U.K. Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council's (EPSRC) Prosperity Partnerships programme, which fosters links between academia and industry. Jacobs, which is investing $4.6m, will have the opportunity to commercialise technologies developed at CRADLE for clients in urban infrastructure, energy generation, nuclear power, decommissioning and space exploration, where robust and reliable autonomous robotics are crucial for efficient asset management and operations.

Jacobs Energy, Security & Technology Senior Vice President Karen Wiemelt said "Securing this prestigious Prosperity Partnerships grant allows Jacobs and The University of Manchester to research the autonomous systems that industry needs to solve today's challenges and create a more connected and sustainable world. Robotics is already a core strength of Jacobs' work in the energy and space sectors and this research collaboration will enable us to develop advanced technologies to help achieve net zero targets, such as autonomous inspection and repair systems to extend the life of water and energy networks, roads, bridges and railways."

Centre Co-director Professor Barry Lennox said CRADLE will allow the university's recently established Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI to build a relationship with one of the leading organisations involved in applied robotics, “helping us to progress our fundamental research in this area and to deliver impact from the robotic and AI systems that we are developing”. CRADLE's research remit covers mechatronics, software and how communities and regulators will engage with future robotic systems.

Jacobs and the University of Manchester will provide 12 PhD students with resources and guidance. This support will allow students to conduct thorough research and showcase prototype demonstrations and advance the field of robotics.

Image courtesy of the University of Manchester