Europe, home to many cutting-edge robotics projects, could fall behind the rest of the world if funding for such programs fails to keep pace over the next several years suggests Viviane Reding, an EU Commissioner of information society and media issues. She is asking both government bodies and private industry to act quickly in order to secure Europe’s place as a leader and pioneer of robotics research.
Some of the many projects calling Europe home include the world’s first shape-shifting robot, the HYDRA project, currently being developed by the Lego Group in Denmark. It is a fascinating project inspired by cell biology whose goal is to develop robots that can self-assemble, self-repair and even change shape. Another program breaking new ground is the Italian Cyberhand, a new type of artificial prosthesis which is able to recreate the neural connection between the hand and the central nervous system.
Currently the EU spends roughly $100 million on robotics research. This figure includes all of the EU nations. Japan and Korea have similar budgets while the US spends about five times that. At one time EU countries built roughly 35% of all robots used in manufacturing, but this number has fallen quickly in the face of stiff competition from Pacific rim nations.
Talks over spending plans broke down during a summit earlier this summer although they are expected to start again before the end of the year due to increasing commission pressure.