University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Robotics Innovation Facility

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The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is one of five areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains its purpose:

Located beside the UEZ café, which forms a central meeting place for the building’s companies, entrepreneurs and academics, is one of the most exciting parts of the University. Identifiable by the array of industrial robot arms and other cutting-edge hardware, visible through its window onto the café – the Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is a high tech, inspiring and truly creative space. 

As UWE Bristol’s specialist industry-facing unit within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) – a collaborative partnership between the city-region’s two universities and the UK’s most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research – RIFBristol provides training, research and consultancy services to a range of private and public sector clients.

Recognised as a Digital Innovation Hub by the European Union, it has been successfully delivering robotics workshops, prototyping and validating new products, demonstrating how automation can improve manufacturing processes, and supervising student-industry collaborations, since 2013.

“Our engineers help clients to trial various technical solutions, identifying the best options for their requirements,” says Farid Dailami, Director of RIFBristol and Associate Professor for Knowledge Exchange in Manufacturing.

“They can advise on capital purchases, support the deployment and integration of hardware, undertake research and proof-of-concept work, and deliver training.”

One of the unique strengths of RIFBristol is what it describes as its ‘brand agnostic’ approach. As part of BRL and UWE Bristol, it is not tied to a particular hardware manufacturer or supplier. It is, therefore, under no pressure to favour a particular brand or model and its advice is always honest, unbiased and wholly tailored to its customers’ needs.

This also means that its dedicated workspace in the UEZ is equipped with an impressive range of manufacturing equipment. ABB, KUKA and Universal robot arms sit alongside conveyers, sensors, cameras and laser measuring systems, all of which can be used to address clients’ research, CPD and product development challenges.  

“Our expertise is as diverse as our hardware”, says Dailami. “Our staff have knowledge of industrial robotics, cobotics, mechanical and electronics engineering, mechatronics, smart manufacturing, 3D printing and simulation. This diversity is our strength. We can help with robotics, but we can also bring knowledge and experience of related disciplines into play”

Alongside its private consultancy projects, RIFBristol leads several publicly funded research and business support programmes. The EU-funded TERRINet initiative, for example, enables researchers at all levels, from undergraduates, to PhD candidates and industry-based professionals, to access robotics infrastructure located across Europe. 

Since 2018, RIFBristol has also delivered the ERDF-funded SABRE Programme. This £1m project has enabled small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the West of England to explore the benefits of robotics and automation.

From start-ups, micro-enterprises and sole traders, to larger and more established companies, its free and subsidised services have helped businesses to get the most from these important technologies.

“RIFBristol and the SABRE Programme played a vital role in the completion of our initial prototype. It enabled the company to undertake pilot studies with leading OEMs – and to safeguard the development of this exciting technology in the UK, securing 3 existing, and creating 4 new, jobs in the West of England.”

Dr Evangelos Zympeloudis, CEO, iCOMAT Ltd | www.icomat.co.uk


For more information about RIFBristol visit its website. The University Enterprise Zone is also made up of the Health Tech HubFuture SpaceLaunch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory Hardware Incubator.