… Robots can do more than manufacturing.
You have certainly seen industrial robots building cars. But as robots are moving « out of the cage » their role and services spread. Today you will find surgical robots assisting surgeons in hospitals, search and rescue robots collaborating with humans in executing dangerous tasks such as decommissioning. Other robots augment human capabilities with exoskeletons enabling elderly or disabled people to move. In the near future, driverless cars could populate our streets. Drones have already made it into the news and agricultural robots are increasingly used on our farms and fields. And for some, this is just the beginning.
… Europe is currently leading high-end robotics production.
In the field of industrial robotics, which is currently growing at 8 % p.a., Europe’s share of the world market is about 32%. We are the number one industrial robotics producer worldwide! Europe’s share in the world service robotics market is even more spectacular as it currently stands at 63%. This is the result of Europe’s excellence in interdisciplinary research and a culture of cooperation between industry and academia .
… China and the US are heavily investing into robotics to catch-up with us.
From today’s €22bn worldwide revenues, robotics industries are set to achieve annual sales of between €50bn and €62bn by 2020 . We do have a first-mover advantage here. Obviously others want their piece of the cake. US companies are heavily investing in robotics acquiring many US and European start-ups while also draining brains over the pond. China, the biggest market for robotics, is heavily investing in robotics technology to be able to compete with Europe, Japan, South Korea and the US in the short-term.
… the Commission has identified robotics as one of the flagship initiatives within Horizon 2020.
To secure Europe’s global competitiveness, the European Commission initiated a PPP called SPARC. SPARC is the agent for implementing robotics strategy within Europe. With €700M in funding from the Commission for 2014 – 2020, which is tripled by European industry to yield to a total investment of €2.8bn, SPARC is the largest civilian-funded robotics innovation programme in the world .
… robots will not necessarily replace humans but increasingly assist them.
European public opinion is often afraid of robotics, the main fear being that robotics will steal people’s jobs. The impact of robotics on jobs is indeed a real concern. Similar to previous technological revolutions (i.e. internet), robotics will definitely create new job opportunities. But at the same time, some jobs will become obsolete. The question will be whether labour will be able to transit into new jobs.
… the EP will be the first Parliament in the world to reflect on a legal framework for robotics.
So far, decision-makers have shown little interest in addressing legal challenges around robotics. No national Parliament has specifically addressed these challenges. By creating a specific WG on the legal implications of robotics, the EP will be the first Parliament to reflect on an appropriate framework for robotics that will on the one hand foster competitiveness and innovation of Europe’s robotics industry while at the same time protecting workers’ and consumers’ fundamental rights.
And you certainly know that…
… with technological change, skills of labour need to adapt to get a win-win situation out of innovation. The role of decision-makers and industry will be to accompany workers in transiting to the use of new technologies such as robotics.
… with technological change, new legal questions arise whilst existing rules need to be adapted to new contexts.