Cambridge-based Metrarc announced today that CEO Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier will be leading Essex University in a consortium of eight universities which has recently secured a £42million investment to fund the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR). This initiative aims to develop state-of-the-art robotics, sensing and artificial intelligence (AI) to address major challenges relevant to nuclear environments and materials. The NCNR will be led by the University of Birmingham and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, research institutions, industrial collaborators and investment partners.
The UK has around 4.9 million tonnes of nuclear waste which has to be cleaned up and made good. This complex task should preferably be performed by robots due to the hazardous nature of the materials. Klaus will manage Essex University’s role in researching the effects of radiation on the electronics of the robot systems and developing new ways of increasing the resilience, robustness and security of the hardware and software against radiation damage. This part of the program will be conducted along-side Caltech’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory where Klaus is a Visiting Research Affiliate. Klaus commented, “the NCNR is a hugely significant investment of the UK government into robotics, sensing and AI and we are delighted to be playing such a key part in this flagship programme. Alongside our work on improving the radiation resistance of the electronics in these robotic systems, it is also really important to secure these robotics systems from hostile takeovers and malware. Metrarc Founder Karl Heeks commented “The work we are doing at Metrarc, where we are developing ICMetrics as a high level of security and protection, will be useful as a cornerstone for this ground-breaking activity.”
The team at Essex will also be contributing its expertise in computer vision to enable better deployment of robots in their surroundings through mapping the area it is deployed in and localising itself in unknown environments. Klaus will be working closely with Essex University researcher and Metrarc advisor Dr Shoaib Ehsan.
It is envisioned that the NCNR will establish itself as a leading global player in transferring state-of-the-art robotics and AI into pragmatic solutions for safety critical and high-risk industry. The overall programme is led by Professor Rustam Stolkin of the University of Birmingham with partners from the universities of Essex, Bristol, Edinburgh, Lincoln, West of England, Lancaster and Queen Mary. The funding is part of the governments £93 million programme through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which was announced in the April 2017 Budget.