NCCR Robotics third phase is fully funded by SNSF after highly positive evaluation

The Swiss National Science Foundation has awarded NCCR Robotics the maximum possible funding level for its third and final phase, which will run until the end of 2022. The decision follows an exceptionally positive assessment of the Phase 2 achievements by the NCCR Robotics review panel, which praised the scientific results as well as the structural aspects and the activities related to technology transfer, education and communication.    

“After the strong performance in the previous years, the NCCR has become even more visible internationally and is now a benchmark for robotics worldwide” stated the panel, chaired by Professor Katharina Fromm from the University of Fribourg. “The NCCR groups have undeniably earned ‘seats at the top table’ of the international robotics research community”.

In a competitive evaluation of all National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) that are now entering their third phase, the SNSF ranked NCCR Robotics among the best-performing ones. These centres were awarded 73 per cent of their Phase 2 budget to complete Phase 3, which in NCCR Robotics’ case corresponds to more than 11 million Swiss francs, the highest possible funding that could be obtained.

The funding will allow NCCR Robotics to continue its research on wearable, mobile and educational robots for four more years, consolidating past achievement and opening new lines of research.

 The Wearable Robotics research line will continue pioneering robotic and artificial intelligence technologies for restoring gait in patients with locomotion pathologies. It will also add a novel project on the integration of a third, robotic arm for supporting people with disabilities and augmenting healthy people’s abilities in motor tasks. This project will investigate soft robotic hardware, wearable sensors and body-machine interfaces, leveraging the results of the “Symbiotic Drone” activity which ended with Phase 2.

The Rescue Robotics group will progress towards the vision of search-and-rescue teams in which flying robots, legged robots and human operators collaborate. It will add new abilities and robustness to the robots developed during Phase 2, while pursuing more exploratory and risky research on bioinspired design, sensors, neuromorphic hardware and machine learning on the other.  

The Educational Robotics topic will build on the success of the Thymio and Cellulo robots, designed and built during the first eight years of NCCR Robotics. The team will expand the exploitation of these robots, training teachers to use them and integrate them in their work, and will explore new educational programs with Cellulo, to encourage novel forms of learning and interaction in the classroom.

Outreach activities, scholarships for female Master and PhD students, technology transfer activities will also continue, comprising the highly successful NCCR Robotics spin-fund grant and the organisation of the now well-established Swiss Robotics Industry Day.