12 best robotics research institutions and labs in the UK

The UK has a long history of innovation and engineering excellence, dating back to the Industrial Revolution. This foundation has fostered a strong culture of research and development, which extends to robotics.

The UK government has recognized the potential of robotics and has invested heavily in research funding and initiatives. This support has helped to create a thriving ecosystem for robotics research, attracting talented researchers and companies.

We saw some of the Netherlands’ top robotics research institutions and labs in the previous post. Today’s post will show the UK’s top robotics research institutions and labs.

1. InfoLab21 – Lancaster University

InfoLab21 is one of the world’s most significant and crucial ICT research facilities and is part of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications. In 2005, Patricia Hewitt created this Research Group to transfer substantial knowledge, technology, and innovation techniques within the university to the private sector. It focuses primarily on information and communication technologies.

2. The Centre for Automation and Robotics Research (CARR) – Sheffield Hallam University

The Center for Automation and Robotics Research (CARR), based at Sheffield Hallam University, is the founding member of the Sheffield Center for Robotics (SCentRo). The CARR consists of the Modeling and Integration Group (SMI), SMI’s Mobile Machines and Vision Laboratories (MMVL), Automation, and Logism focus. CARR creates a repository of practical solutions and knowledge and inspires future developments.

The expertise of the MMVL group includes artificial intelligence, computer view, embedded system design, electronic design, interaction design, math, robotics, and swarm robotics. The group has a track record of search and rescue in robotics and works with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue. The main research topic is the link between artificial perception and physical action.

3. Intelligent Robotics Laboratory – University of Birmingham

Intelligent Robotics Laboratory is a leading team in a range of high-level robot reasoning areas, including building comprehensive intelligent systems (including integrating and using multi-subsystem data to make the world more rational and take decisions), robot vision, planning and decision-making for uncertainties, machine learning, malfunction diagnostics, and execution. The group also collaborates extensively with psychologists and neuroscientists to develop computer models in robots that test ideas on how intelligence can and should work.

4. Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) – University of Bristol

Bristol Robotics Laboratory is the UK’s leading and largest academic research center for multidisciplinary robotics. It is a partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol) and Bristol University. It has a vibrant community of more than 70 academics and industry practitioners leading current thinking in service robotics, smart autonomous systems, and bioengineering.

BRL’s state-of-the-art laboratory, an internationally recognized Center of Excellence in Robotics, covers an area of more than 2,700 square meters and houses workshops, wet laboratories, laser cutters, rapid prototyping facilities, and two flying arenas with multiple 3D motion capture systems, as well as seminar rooms and a fully equipped video conference suite.

The primary goal of BRL is to understand the science, engineering, and social role of robotics and embedded intelligence; its vision is to transform robotics through pioneering advances in autonomous robot systems that act smartly without human supervision. BRL offers research programs at the Ph.D. and Masters level in addition to its core research activities. It hosts a variety of robotic conferences, events, and competitions, including TAROS and the FIRA Robot World Cup.

5. Robotics Group – University of Essex

The Essex Robotics group is the UK’s largest mobile robotics group, with advanced mobile robotics research facilities such as the Essex Robotics Arena featuring the world’s largest powered floor and a VICON 3D motion tracking system in real-time. There are over 50 mobile robots in the laboratory, such as flying robots, fish robots, and smart wheelchairs. At the University of Essex, robotics research focuses on autonomous mobile robotics and addresses various research issues. Research is being carried out in a large campus research lab, the new £ 4 m Robot Arena, opened in 2004.

6. Adaptive Systems Research Group – University of Hertfordshire

The Hertfordshire Adaptive Systems Research Group is a multidisciplinary group of faculty, students, and research staff of the University of Hertfordshire. The group works with state-of-the-art robotic platforms, which include iCub, Care-O-bot ® 3, HapticMASTER, PHANToM, and NAO, and research platforms specifically designed to interact with human robots within the group (KASPAR, Sunflower). In the last ten years, the group has participated in several European robotics research projects in which they have coordinated or participated.

These projects cover cognitive robotics and development, home robotics, communicative interaction between humans and robots, emotional modeling, and assistive and rehabilitation robotics. Many of their current projects address the challenges of assistive robotics and rehabilitation, designing robots as therapeutic instruments for children with autism and social and empathic robots that support the elderly or robotic stroke rehabilitation solutions.

7. Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems Research – University of Lincoln

The Lincoln Center for Autonomous Systems Research (L-CAS) focuses on applied autonomous system research. It aims to integrate different aspects of machinery, computing, sensing, and software to create intelligent systems that can interact with the complexities of the real world.

L-CAS specialists are experts in integrating perception, education, decision-making, and control capabilities into autonomous systems such as mobile robots and smart devices and applying this research to fields such as personal robotics, food and agriculture, safety and monitoring, environment surveillance, gaming and simulation technology, and intelligent transport. L-CAS is one of the first groups in which long-term mapping with mobile robots was studied, and a new set of long-term data sets acquired for up to 2 months have been published.

8. Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (RIS) – University of Plymouth

The Center for Robotics and Neural Systems is a part of the School of Computing and Mathematics of Plymouth University. The center comprises a multidisciplinary group comprising cognitive systems, robotics, and component technologies. The group has strong national and international ties with industry and other research institutes. The center has several commercial robots, including iCub, Nao, and Darwin.

They also build competition and teaching robots such as the Plymouth Humanoid and LightHead. The center conducts research into artificial visions (plant classification, analysis of microscopic slides, robot location, object detection), speech interfaces, the interaction between human and robot systems, stabilization of robot gaits, compliance, cognitive and neural modeling (hearing, vision, language learning, behavioral learning, memory, dynamic systems, neuronal models).

9. Intelligent Systems Research Laboratory (ISR) – University of Reading

Intelligent Systems Research (ISA) at the Systems Engineering School at the University of Reading consists of an advanced FPGA research group, computer vision, multi-modal activity tracking, machine learning, intelligent media search, and dynamic usability evaluation laboratories. These support research into social and service robotics, which are aware of the semanticized cognitive context.

ISR retains an unparalleled rate of sustained success in the UK university sector, as evidenced by its results and impacts. Based on its proven strengths, its internationally recognized leadership has allowed it to lead various large collaborative research programs and to contribute as a core leading research partner to large-scale collaborative projects. ISR is the scientific and technical director of the VideoSense European Center of Excellence.

10. Cybernetics Research Group – University of Reading

The Cybernetics Research Group is a multidisciplinary research team at the University of Reading in the School of Systems Engineering. Robotic systems are a precious demonstration of cybernetics as concepts from stability and control to cognition and intelligence are explored. The group has a strong relationship with Prof. Atta Badii and the Research Laboratory for Intelligent Systems (ISR).

Cybernetics research at the University of Reading can be considered in three interwoven topics. Neurodynamics and cognition, measurement and control, and interaction between humans. As such, research tends to focus on the core concepts of cybernetics in animals and machinery, but group members are continuously interested in all areas of the industry. The group is dedicated to cognitive robotics and neuroscience with the Center for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics and the pharmaceutical school.

11. Autonomous Systems Laboratory – University of Southampton

The University of Southampton’s Autonomous Systems Laboratory (ASL) specializes in autonomous robotic systems research. It actively contributes to state-of-the-art research in the fields of UAVs–rotating wings and fixed wings. In 2012, the HALO team was the highest-scoring team in the DARPA UAVForge Challenge, an international competition for a small unmanned air vehicle for the next generation of the US military.

12. Intelligent Systems Research Center (ISRC) – University of Ulster

The ISRC is a significant research facility that develops intelligent computing systems inspired and learned from biology and neuroscience. It is about achieving a high degree of understanding in biological signal processing and translating the critical aspects of the knowledge into computer systems in an “intelligent” way for humans. The team is committed to researching and building robotic systems that can learn, evolve, adapt, organize themselves, and effectively communicate with people and other machines.

The facility comprises a broad range of robots, including four G5 Scitos robots (two of which are mounted on 7-DOF Schunk robot handling machines), a Willow Garage PR2, 10 Pioneer 3, several Khephera and Koala robots, as well as a five-finger robotic shadow hand. A high-precision Vicon motion-tracking system is also permanently available in the laboratory for tasks such as robot monitoring and experimental validation. The team’s work deals with robot learning, robot vision, collaborative robotics, networked robotics, scientific robotics, acquisition and adaptation of touch sensing, and cumulative abilities.