Europe has a long history in the development of robotics from core science discoveries to their applications in our industries and homes. Given the vibrant European Robotics ecosystem, and the potential for the technology to improve the economy and our daily lives, the time is right to launch a new European Flagship in robotics.
This is not the first attempt at a Robotics Flagship. In 2011 the Call for ‘FET-Pilots’ was launched. FET-Pilots were Coordination Actions (networking projects for those not familiar with European funding mechanisms of research) with the objective of preparing a FET-Flagship Proposal for the 2012 Call for FET-Flagship projects. CA-RoboCom was one of the Pilots selected out of more than 30 proposals. The coordination action CA-RoboCom designed and described the FET Flagship initiative “Robot Companions for Citizens. The goal of the flagship was to realize a unique and unforeseen multidisciplinary science and engineering program supporting a radically new approach towards machines and how we deploy them in our society. The vision of the Robot Companions for Citizens was an ecology of sentient machines that should help and assist humans in the broadest possible sense to support and sustain our welfare. The main characteristics of RCC were soft bodies based on the novel integration of solid articulated structures with flexible properties and soft behaviour based on new levels of perceptual, cognitive and emotive capabilities. The RoboCom FET Flagship aimed to bridge «Excellent Science» and «Societal Impact» with 5 main pillars: Multifunctional Nanomaterial and Energy, Morphological Computation, Simplexity, Sentience, Society.
After a Call for Flagships issued in 2012, two Flagships were selected: Graphene and Human Brain Project. RoboCom was very well evaluated, but it was ranked third and unfortunately it was not funded.
In 2016, after a few years of maturation the FLAG-ERA Joint Transnational Call for FET-Flagship Proof-of–concept projects was issued on the 4 topics of the FET-Pilots that were not funded in the 2012 first Call for Flagship. RoboCom++ was selected for the topic ‘Cooperative Robotics’.
RoboCom++ Project springs from the RoboCom community and aims to exploit the knowledge and the strong effort of CA-RoboCom in order to lay the foundation for a future global interdisciplinary research programme on science-based transformative robotics, to be launched by the end of the H2020 Programme. It leverages past experience and mistakes, and more importantly several years of research. It aims to go beyond the vision of RoboCom. For example, it has abandoned the idea of tackling with sentience and other topics related to consciousness to focus on ‘embodied intelligence’.
The Robotics Flagship proposed here builds on the rich ecosystem in robotics, and lessons learned over the years, to offer a fresh and inclusive perspective on European Robotics that goes beyond any previous efforts.