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Autonomous Systems and Robotics research centre

Autonomous Systems and Robotics

The Centre for Autonomous Systems and Robotics of the University of Salford is one of the largest Robotics groups in UK. The Centre, which is site of the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Research Centre, is renowned for fostering interdisciplinary activities both in academic research and within  projects  stemming from collaborations with partners among the major players in different industries.

Over the years, the Centre gained a two-fold advantage: robust technical know-how within individual research areas, and a uniquely wide perspective of the application of different technology based on robotics and automation in several industries, which, in turn, is extremely beneficial from a system  integration  standpoint.

Experience

  • 30 years of experience in over 12 research areas in the context of robotics and automation, and their applications in the industry;    
  • more than 5mln GBP worth of research developed in the last 8 years;    
  • more than 3mln EUR worth of research in the last 3 years, with a +200% growth in year 2015;    
  • excellent capabilities in attracting funds from national and international institutions, including research councils in the UK, the EU, the US, and Japan;    
  • over 18 funded projects in the last 8 years;    
  • over 10 mln GBP attracted from over 50 research grants.    

Resources

  • over 500 m2 of facilities structured in 5 laboratories, including a Living Lab and a room equipped with a world class virtual environment facility (OCTAVE);    
  • infrastructure supporting research in robotics, automation, and in several other fields, such as, machine learning, computer vision, and medical informatics;    
  • equipment, including 6 industrial robot arms, tracking systems, haptic devices, and exoskeletons;    
  • a staff of more than 15 full-time researchers and teachers, including 6 senior researchers and 10 Ph.D. students, and more than 20 students who are engaged in Master and Doctorate programs every year.    

Collaboration network

  • collaborations with over 25 national and international industrial partners in different markets, including multinational companies;    
  • collaborations with over 15 Universities in 4 continents;    
  • collaborations with 10 Governmental institutions and councils;    
  • research collaboration with the military industry, both nationally and overseas;    
  • representation in the major world conference in robotics, including ICRA, IROS, ICAR;    
  • key member of 3 European robotics networks (EURON, CLAWAR and MACA);    
  • active membership in the organizing committees of the major conferences and 5 societies (IEEE, IEE, IFAC, IFR, and BARA).    

History

In 1987, the University of Salford was the founding site for the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Research Centre (NARRC). Since then, robotics has formed the major strategic direction in Engineering within the University, thus, offering the Centre the opportunity of leading collaborations with  other  research units.

The Centre - currently led by Professor Samia Nefti-Meziani - has strong national and international connections with both other research institutes and the industry, with specific regard to manufacturing and partners, particularly  in  the Aerospace and Food sectors. Salford researchers have been at the forefront of strategic national developments initiated by several organizations in different areas of interest including: the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), the Department  of  Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Also, the Centre participated to multiple international initiatives from the European Union. Currently, the Centre is host for two  government  sponsored networks in Robotincs and in Automation, as part of the DEFRA-sponsored Food Manufacturing Engineering Group.

Moreover, the Centre for Robotics and Automation has a strong history in transferring its expertise to students. Taught course activities at undergraduate level in the area of robotics began in 1995 and an M.Sc. programme in Robotics and Automation started in 1996. The M.Sc. programme links closely  with  M.Sc. courses in Intelligent Machines and Mechatronics. The current annual intake onto the M.Sc programme in Robotics and Automation is 12-15 students per year.

In addition to taught courses, the Center has a unique offer of different Ph.D. programmes towards Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), and Professional Doctorate (D.Prof.), with approximately 80-100 students involved in robotics research activities covering a wide range of  topics  and applications.

Expertise and research areas

Over the years, the Centre developed a unique expertise in several areas in the field of Robotics and Automation, which, in turn, offer a unique advantage in terms of both basic and applied research. The Centre focuses its research on automation systems, robot and machine design, dexterous end effectors,  legged  robots and walking systems, soft robotics, biomimetics and biologically-inspired robots, haptics and telepresence, physical human-robot interaction, rehabilitation robotics, cognitive robotics and autonomous systems, uninhabited autonomous systems and unmanned air vehicles, and food automation.  In  addition, the Centre gained expertise in adjacent research topics and is extremely open to leveraging its know-how and facilities to explore other topics and to support multidisciplinary research in different areas.

The Centre for Robotics and automation focuses on the following areas:

Research grants and projects 





The Marie Curie Initial Training Network, SMART-E (Sustainable Manufacturing through Advanced Robotics Training in Europe), coordinated by the University of Salford, has launched a new European research and training programme on Advanced Robotics under the European Union programme FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN  with  a total budget of approximately €4 million. SMART-E will develop a leading European Doctoral Training programme, training 15 high calibre Researchers in the areas of Dexterous, Soft and Compliant Robotics in Manufacturing; Reconfigurable and Logistics Robotics; and Safety & Human Robot Interaction.

Coordinated by Prof Samia Nefti-Meziani, SMART-E brings together a team of world-renowned experts in robotics from leading universities in the UK, Germany, Italy and Switzerland ((University of Salford, University of Sheffield, Technical University of Munich, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Italian Institute  of  Technology,University of Zurich) and a world leading manufacturers and end users of Automation in the Aerospace and Food sectors including FESTO, AIRBUS and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The team is supported by a number of additional leading Universities, research laboratories  and  industries as associated partners.

For more details please visit the SMART-E website

GAMMA

The Autonomous Systems & Robotics Research Centre holds the leading role in Autonomous mission planning and management, task allocation, hybrid optimisation, and intelligent decision making in the GAMMA Programme (Growing Autonomous Mission Management Applications).

Lead Partners in this programme include North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) and BAE Systems, together with the Universities of Salford, Manchester, Lancaster, Liverpool, UCLAN, Liverpool (including the Virtual Engineering Centre), and National Nuclear Laboratories.

GAMMA is a three year £9.1 million Autonomous Systems programme aimed at driving SME engagement and developing technology within the emerging autonomous systems markets. GAMMA technology areas of interest include data management, image processing, sensing and communication and mission planning and management.

All research projects and grants

The Center collectively attracted over 30 research grants including:

  • Medical Research Council – Kinecting frailty, £ 50,000  
  • ASTRAEA T7 £40.000 BAE Systems  
  • Challenging established rules for train control through a fault tolerance approach, £345,887, EPSRC  
  • Adaptive control of large scale UAV: Ukraine Ministry of Education, £4,000.00.  
  • GAMMA: Growing Autonomous System Mission Management Applications, £352,277.00, Regional Growth Fund  
  • Adaptive control of large scale, UAV,£4,000.00,Ukraine Ministry of Education  
  • Sustainable Manufacturing through Robotics Training in Europe, (SMART-E) €4M, EC - Framework 7  
  • KTP with HellermannTyton Ltd,£152,176.00,Technology Strategy Board,13/05/2014  
  • EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Intelligent Automation - Feasibility Study, £49,924.00, EPSRC  
  • In Touch Research Fellow Collaboration,£60,000.00,In Touch Ltd  
  • Soft Actuators for Biomimetic Systems:  
  • Robo-Erectus - A Biologically Inspired Robotic Primate: An EPSRC public awareness project  
  • The Grasping Challenge, Anatomy of Dexterity: EPSRC public awareness project  
  • Flexible Automation in the Food Industry Project: This project involved visiting 20+ food companies and showing them the benefits of automation.  
  • Micro Metal Hydride Actuators: This EPSRC project explored the use of Metal Hydrides as a form of actuator.  
  • Centre for Food Robotics and Automation (CenFRA): CenFRA has been established to provide food companies with assistance and advice on automation. This involved visiting 25+ food companies  
  • EYE-CATCHING, £232,507.00, EPSRC,01/09/06  
  • Development of a 3D prototype system providing immersive collaborative techniques, £15,000.00, BBC,11/05/2007  
  • Industrial CASE Studentship (Real-time distributed processing for motion capture from video), Financed by EPSRC and OMG Vicon,£83,064.00, EPSRC CTA, 25/09/2007  
  • CROSS DRIVE,£344,139.00,EC Framework, 01/09/13  
  • KTP with HellermannTyton Ltd,£152,176.00,Technology Strategy Board,13/05/2014  
  • EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Intelligent Automation - Feasibility Study  
  • VISIONAIR - VISION,Advanced Infrastructure for Research,£174,377.00EC - Framework 7 20/05/2010  
  • Design4Energy,£484,918.00,EC - Framework 7,20/06/2013  
  • Collaborative Environment for Eco-Design of Product-Services and Production Processes Integrating Highly Personalised Innovative Functions (ProSEco),£416,453.00,EC - Framework 7, 01/07/2013  
  • CROSS DRIVE £ 344,139.00, EC - Framework 7,24/09/2013iCase with Arup, £ 92,691.00, EPSRC,17/09/2014  
  • Eight Songs for a Mad King,£30,000.00,Arts Council England,27/04/2012  
  • INCIDENT (Impact aNalysis of City Infrastructure Disaster EveNT),£7,000.00,Arup, 24/02/2014  
  • EU-CIRCLE - A panEuropean framework for strengthening Critical Infrastructure resilience to climate change,£218,338.00,EC - Horizon 2020,27/05/2015  
  • Framework for Research and Innovation in MediaCityUK (FIRM),£2,688,996.61, EPSRC, 30/06/2009  
  • A scientific basis for improving function in trans-femoral amputees£149,236.00, MOD, 10/05/2012  
  • Development of a Device for the Motorised Rehabilitation of Walking (moRoW-3), £26,556.00, National Institute for Health Research,15/09/2014  
  • CGM 2.i, £50,000.00,Vicon Motion Systems Ltd,15/12/2014  
  • Common themes in gait kinematics in Niemann Pick C,£30,000.00,Actelion Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd12/01/2015  
  • Addressing PICO questions relating to prosthetics and orthotics service delivery,£39,100.00, US Agency for International Development,14/10/2015  
  • Design and Locomotion Control of Bio-inspired Snake Robot for Rescue Missions, NSFC, ¥980k, CI, awarded, August 2015  
  • How Scientists Work, £189,006.00, EPSRC, 17/11/2006  
  • Digital Stories for Engineers, £24,712.00, Royal Academy of Engineering, 24/03/2008  
  • Wikked Science, £209,015.00, EPSRC, 30/09/2008  
  • Identifying a sound environment for secondary schools, £97,442.00, EPSRC, 08/10/2008  
  • KT-EQUAL: Putting ageing and disability research into practice, £123,316.00, EPSRC, 15/12/2008  
  • More Super-sonic communication, £91,491.00, EPSRC, 01/06/2009  
  • Mood Extraction and Theme Music, £4,400.00, BBC, 22/11/2010  
  • Perception and Automated Assessment of Recorded Audio Quality, Especially User Generated Content, £456,986.00, EPSRC, 14/12/2011  
  • S3A: Future Spatial Audio for an Immersive Listener Experience at Home, £1,411,295.00 EPSRC, 23/12/2013  
  • IMPRINtS - Internet and Mobile technologies for a Public Role In Noise Surveying £178,834.00, EPSRC, 23/03/2007  
  • Statistical Quantification of Vocal Effort Level Distribution, £79,260.00, Her Majesty's Government Communications Centre (HMGCC), 19/05/2008  
  • Synthesized Music for Room Acoustic Measurement, £65,164.00, Leverhulme Trust 26/06/2008  
  • Soundscapes, £44,595.00, DEFRA, 12/11/2008  
  • Making Sense of Sound, £398,961.00, EPSRC, 09/11/2015  
  • KTP with East Lancashire Moneyline (IPS) Limited, £107,372.00, Technology Strategy Board 17/09/2007  
  • Shorter KTP with East Lancashire Moneyline, £47,200.00, Technology Strategy Board 27/08/2010  
  • A Pilot Study in Data Mining for Customer Usage Patterns From SMART Meters, £79,000.00 British Gas, 11/03/2011  
  • SEEDS: Self learning Energy Efficient builDings and open Spaces, £299,836.00, EC - Framework 7 23/06/2011  
  • KTP with Idox Software Ltd, £131,983.00, Technology Strategy Board, 27/06/2014  
  • KTP with Social Sense, £162,008.00, Technology Strategy Board, 29/10/2014  
  • Privacy4Forensics, £161,227.00, EC - Framework 7, 19/01/2016  
  • KTP with Car Finance 247 Ltd, £129,666.00, Innovate UK, 03/11/2016  

Working with us 

The Centre is always keen to hear from students and researchers interested in robotics and autonomous systems at the University of Salford. Please do contact us if you would like to work with us. For further details on current and recent vacancies, please see our vacancies page.

We are currently advertising a funded post for a Career Development Research Fellow looking at assistive robotics systems for cognitive impairment. For further details, see here

The Centre for Autonomous Systems and Advanced Robotics in the School for Computing Science and Engineering is advertising a 5 year Research Fellow post, with the focus on the use of robotics and autonomous systems to tackle challenges encountered by dementia sufferers. The successful candidate will  work closely with the recently established Salford Institute for Dementia which has the overarching objective of generating and disseminating evidence to enable people to live well with dementia.

This is one of a limited number of career development posts offered by Salford for researchers in highly strategic areas for the University. Applicants are expected to be exceptional scientists who are in the early stages of their research career and have the potential to become leaders in their field.  Applicants must, therefore, be able to demonstrate an outstanding contribution to robotics and autonomous systems and have a clear and ambitious plan for their career development; the successful Fellow will also be expected to apply for external funding, contribute to REF2020, and be a strong candidate  for a permanent post in the University at the end of the Fellowship.

Informal enquiries can be made to the Head of the Research Centre, Professor Samia Nefti-Meziani