Scotland’s brand new ‘national robotarium’ has been unveiled for the first time – with a major international research and engineering partnership.

The £22.4m facility at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University will partner with Tata Consultancy Services on applied engineering and joint research across multiple disciplines including soft robotics, field robotics, co-bot and tele-operations.

The centre for robotics and artificial intelligence is the largest and most advanced of its kind in the UK. The agreement also covers areas of urgent societal need including social and geriatric care, a sector in which the National Robotarium is already well-known. 

Part of the Tata group, India’s largest multinational business group, TCS has partnered with many of the world’s largest businesses for over 50 years to help deliver transformative projects. Operating in 55 countries, TCS generated consolidated revenues of over 25 billion USD in the fiscal year to end March 2022. TCS Research has a dedicated robotics unit that works with various industry segments.

Utilising expertise from both Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, TCS Research will collaborate with the world-leading National Robotarium to create innovative solutions to global challenges using cutting-edge robotics and AI research, product design and new technology creation. 

The agreement with the National Robotarium will build on and support a wider partnership between Heriot-Watt University and TCS which will additionally include education, information technology and innovation developments.

Stewart Miller, CEO of the National Robotarium, said: “This exciting collaboration is a fitting milestone to announce during the official opening ceremony of the National Robotarium. The partnership will enable TCS and the National Robotarium to bring together our vast combined experience and expertise, elevating the robotics and artificial intelligence offering of both organisations as a result.  

“Together we will deliver applied solutions across a range of challenges informed by TCS’ clients, utilising the unique facilities of our new building and adopting an enhanced approach which aims to de-risk and speed up adoption in the market. We will shortly announce a joint programme of focused research, which will outline some of the future technologies required in the field of robotics and AI. 

“This announcement is the first of many for the National Robotarium as we ramp up our global collaborative activities. Britain has a long and rich heritage of delivering cutting-edge innovation on the world stage. The opening of this dedicated, state-of-the-art facility is another important milestone in that story and one which I believe demonstrates Scotland and the UK’s role at the forefront of global developments in AI and robotics.”

Based at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, the purpose-built National Robotarium facility provides a catalyst for entrepreneurship, bringing together academics and companies ranging in size from global businesses to innovative startups. It is expected to deliver sustainable economic benefit to Edinburgh, the UK and beyond. 

The National Robotarium is part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative, supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government. The initiative aims to turn Edinburgh into the data capital of Europe and is part of the wider £1.3 billion Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.

The 40,000ft ² National Robotarium building houses three distinct research and development areas, providing bespoke facilities for Robotics & Autonomous Systems (RAS), Human & Robotics Interaction (HRI) and High Precision Manufacturing. Amongst the specialist equipment is an autonomous systems laboratory and a living lab for trialling technology in a realistic home setting, It also includes a dedicated education hub with a schools outreach programme engaging young people in a robotics career. 

The building’s design focuses on sustainability and energy efficiency. In winter, the intelligent facade will provide solar heat and recycle warm air while a solar PV array is installed on the roof.