The biggest Robotics Laboratory in the country is being officially opened today. The multi million pound facility at the University of the West of England is a joint project with Bristol University. It's home to 70 academics and businesses. Electronics Engineers, mechanical engineers surgeons, mathematians, microbiologists and psychologists - people from all sorts of disciplines are involved in the robotics research.
– Prof Chris Melhuish, Director of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory
What we need to do is create an innovation pipeline because the ideas that are going on in the laboratory today are going to become the products and the applications of new businesses in the future.
Researchers are working on dozens of projects at the laboratory. In one they have adapted a child's remote controlled toy. It's controlled by a computer rather than a human and on board is a camera which transmits real time images back to the computer operator.
– Arthur Richards, Senior Lecturer
"The goal of the project is to look at control systems and naviagtion techniques so that things that maybe look a bit like this can end up flying around buildings and explore places where you wouldn't want to send a person in to have a look at things so places like damaged nuclear plants chemical plants maybe where there are people they wouldn't be very nice to you or there are other reasons why you wouldn't want to go in there. So we can send something like this in and it can find it's own way around"
Researchers are also looking at how robots can help older people with independent living, becoming a working companion.
– Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly, Senior Lecturer
The robot provides a mobile platform which can offer pro active support to people depending on where they are. So one of the features is to start up a skype call with friends and relatives so for instance you are in the kitchen you can call the robot over to you if you've got mobility difficulties and start up a skype conversation there.
The Bristol robotics laboratory is the largest in the country. But those behind it say more investment is needed in robotics research if Britain is to compete globally.
– Prof Chris Melhuish, Director of Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Certainly this is a major investment but we would be foolish if we thought we had to stop at this point. Remember too the rest of the world is interested in this area and a lot of money is being invested from the states to China because those other countries also see this as a really valuable area to move into, which is going to produce economic growth and economic wealth in the future.