Robertson Construction Central East commences work at £22.4m centre for robotics research

The facility, which will be the largest and most advanced of its type in the UK, will be a centre of excellence for pioneering research for robotics and artificial intelligence. 

The National Robotarium will create innovative solutions to global challenges using cutting-edge research, product design and industry collaboration. Bringing together academics and global companies, the facility will provide a catalyst for entrepreneurship and is expected to deliver sustainable economic benefit to Edinburgh, the UK and beyond. 

David Cairns, managing director, Robertson Construction Central East said: “The National Robotarium building is designed to be as innovative as the research taking place within its walls. The commitment to sustainability and the wellbeing of its staff and students mean the facility will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology for energy efficiency and production and will boast considerable green space. 

Professor Helen Hastie and Professor Yvan Petillot are joint academic leads of the National Robotarium. Describing the vision for the new facility, Professor Hastie said: 

“By drawing upon the world-class talent of the staff at Heriot-Watt and our collaborative partner, the University of Edinburgh, alongside students at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems, the National Robotarium will form a centre of excellence for fundamental research and knowledge exchange to address real-world challenges and industry needs. 

“The new building will facilitate a collaborative approach that is at the heart of the National Robotarium’s ethos, helping to accelerate research from laboratory to market and paving the way for the UK to take a leadership role in AI and robotics technology.” 

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Funded as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, the National Robotarium is a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. The 40,000ft ² building will house 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 will be dedicated laser labs, an autonomous systems laboratory, and a living lab for trialling technology in a realistic home setting. 

Based at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, the National Robotarium is supported by £21 million from the UK Government, and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. 

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: 

“The creation of the UK’s first National Robotarium in Edinburgh will place Scotland at the forefront of a technological revolution that is changing the way we work.   

“This exciting new facility, supported by £21 million from the UK Government, will create opportunities for Scotland’s entrepreneurs and innovators, and bring jobs and prosperity to the entire region. 

“The UK Government has now committed more than £1.5 billion to City Region and Growth Deals which will help communities to build back better from the pandemic.” 

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity said

“Across Scotland we have so far committed more than £1.9 billion over the next 10 to 20 years to City Region and Growth Deals and additional investments. We are investing £300 million over 15 years to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal across transport, housing, culture, innovation and skills as we work towards a fairer and more inclusive economy.  

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“It’s great to see construction now beginning on the National Robotarium. This project will ensure that innovation can play an intrinsic part in the recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” 

The National Robotarium, which is expected to open in Spring 2022, forms part of the City Deal’s Data Driven Innovation (DDI) theme which aims to establish the region as the data capital of Europe.


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