Community: Robotics and Autonomous Systems

The N8 universities are working to create a new, more resilient Northern economy

Prof Koen Lamberts

Chair, N8 Board

Research-intensive universities play a significant role in creating jobs and prosperity

Sir Keith Burnett

Member, N8 Board

N8 can be at the forefront of a rejuvenated Northern economy

Rt Hon Lord Heseltine

former Deputy Prime Minister

It's key for the UK to take the lead in advanced robotic and autonomous systems,

Prof Tony Prescott

Lead, N8 Robotics & Autonomous Systems community

Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) was identified by the UK Government in 2012 as one of the 8 Great Technologies that support UK industrial strategy. It has been estimated that the global market for RAS products and technology will be in the order of £70bn by 2020-2025 and that if the UK optimised its current RAS technology it would raise manufacturing productivity by 22%.

Impact on UK economy

Analysis of trends, opinions and historical precedent has confirmed that RAS will have a significant impact on all sectors within the UK economy. It will increase business competitiveness, provide effective solutions to societal problems and give greater freedom and choice to individuals:

  • RAS offers the potential to reduce government expenditure in critical areas such as security, healthcare and the management and decommissioning of infrastructure.
  • RAS will impact on socio-economic challenges; the ageing society, food security, energy supply, and transport.
  • RAS potential is already attracting investment by governments and private corporations in isolated and uncoordinated pockets.
  • RAS will impact on competitiveness and productivity in the UK and, when applied in manufacturing to date, has resulted in a net gain in jobs over time.
  • RAS enables the societal benefits of technology to be delivered to the public at large through public services such as the NHS and through private providers.

N8 Universities

N8 universities are already engaged in leading research in the field of Robotics, Autonomous Systems and all of the associated technologies that are needed to deliver solutions in the area.


N8 universities host a number of key national and regional facilities that enable research and applied testing of RAS technologies.  For example:

  • Virtual Engineering Centre
  • Dalton Cumbria Facility
  • EPSRC National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems
  • Sheffield Field Robotics Centre

For more information on these and other facilities, see here.


Research at the N8 universities has application in a number of industrial sectors, including:

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Driverless Cars
  • Extreme environments such as space and nuclear
  • Medical applications, both surgical and assistive
  • Control systems



Research has had significant national and international impact, for example:

  • Development of a technology for inspecting pipelines for sections under stress to sub-metre accuracy
  • Creation of the smallest underwater ROV for use in mapping, discovery and monitoring of environmental conditions
  • Creation of a robot capable of exploring the Great Pyramid of Giza which was used to uncover hidden writing, previously unseen

Student Network

The N8 Student Network launched in September, 2017 for more information visit this page.