The vitality and richness of Switzerland’s robotics scene was on full display at the 2021 Swiss Robotics Day, that took place on 2 November at StageOne Event and Convention Hall in Zurich. It was the first edition of NCCR Robotics’s flagship event after the pandemic, and it surpassed the scale of previous editions, drawing in almost 500 people.
Welcome notes from ETH President Joël Mesot and NCCR Robotics Director Dario Floreano opened a dense conference programme, chaired by NCCR Robotics co-Director Robert Riener and that included scientific presentations from Marco Hutter (ETH Zurich), Stéphanie Lacour and Herb Shea (both from EPFL), as well as the industry perspective from ABB’s Marina Bill, Simon Johnson from the Drone Industry Association and Hocoma co-founder Gery Colombo. A final roundtable – including Robert Riener, Hocoma’s Serena Maggioni, Liliana Paredes from Rehaklinik and Georg Rauter from the University of Basel – focused on the potential and the challenges of innovation in healthcare robotics.
Over 50 exhibitors – including scientific laboratories as well as start-ups and large companies – filled the 3,300 square-meter venue, demonstrating technologies ranging from mobile robots to wearable exoskeletons, from safe delivery drones to educational robots and much more. Sixteen young companies presented their innovations in a start-up carousel. Dozens of professional meetings took place throughout the day, allowing a diverse audience of entrepreneurs, funders, academics and policy makers to network and explore possible collaborations. A crowd of young researchers participated in a mentoring session where Marina Bill (ABB), Auke Ijspeert (EPFL) and Iselin Frøybu (Emovo Care) provided advice on academic and industrial careers. Sixteen students participated in the Cybathlon @school competition, experimenting with robotic technologies for disability, and in the end officially announcing CYBATHLON 2024.
During the event, the next chapter for Swiss robotics was also announced: the launch of the NTN Innovation Booster on robotics, which will run from 2022 to 2025 and will be led by EPFL’s Aude Billard. Funded by Innosuisse, the NTN will act as a platform for new ideas and partnerships, supporting innovation through “idea generator bubbles” and specific funding calls. The first call for proposals will take place in early 2022.
The 2021 Swiss Robotics Day marked the beginning of NCCR Robotics’s final year. The project, launched in 2010, is on track to meet all its scientific goals in the three areas of wearable, rescue and educational robotics, while continuing to focus on supporting spin-offs, advancing robotics education and improving equality of opportunities for all robotics researchers. The conclusion of NCCR Robotics will be marked by a larger public event that will take place in Lausanne in November 2022.