Researchers at the University of Twente, operating within the LEO Center for Service Robotics, will be working on three major European projects in the field of robotics in the next few years. The UT’s MIRA and CTIT research institutes acquired funding for three research projects. The investments amounted to a total of 16.9 million euros. The LEO Center for Service Robotics is a collaboration of researchers and entrepreneurs who strive to create groundbreaking and socially relevant applications for robotics. It is the first centre for robotics founded in the Netherlands (2008).
“Being granted a substantial amount from the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union is proof of our state-of-the-art innovations, as well as our dedication to social relevance,” says Prof. Stramigioli, chairman of LEO. “These projects allow us to work on new technologies and applications. In doing so, we can further expand our position as a top player in the field of robotics.”
The first project is MURAB (MRI and Ultrasound Robotic Assisted Biopsy). It is headed by the Robotics and Mechatronics department, coordinated by Professor S. Stramigioli. The researchers are working to improve the accuracy of diagnostic biopsies, as well as the effectiveness of the work process. As a result, the use of expensive MRI equipment can be reduced to a minimum, while maintaining the accuracy of MRI-Ultrasound. The project, carried out in the name of the MIRA research institute, has a scope of 4.3 million euros, with 1.2 million euros granted to the RAM department by the EU. The UT is collaborating with the ZGT, UMC Nijmegen, Siemens and the German KUKA Industrial Robots for this project.
The DE-ENIGMA project is headed by the Human Media Interactions department (HMI) of the CTIT institute for ICT research by Prof. V. Evers and Prof. D. Heylen. The project’s objective is to assist children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using a robot in order to develop their social skills. The project will take four years and has a scope of 3.9 million euros, of which 600,000 euros are going to the HMI department.
The UT is also a partner in the SoftPro project, which stands for Synergy-based Open-source Foundations and Technologies for Prosthetics and Rehabilitation. The project is coordinated by the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), and aims to further develop the soft skills of robots in medical applications for rehabilitation. As a result, new prosthetics, exoskeletons and tools should work together with the human body even better. On behalf of MIRA, Prof. S.Stramigioli, Prof. P. Veltink, Prof. J. Herder, Dr. Stienen and Prof. G. Krijnen are part of the project team, which will receive 1.1 million euros’ worth of subsidies for participating. The Twente-based company Hankamp Rehab, which takes part in the LEO Center for Service Robotics, is also a project partner and offers additional funding.
Robotics within European programmes
Twente has traditionally performed well within the European research programmes in the area of ICT. In FP7, the current Horizon 2020 programme’s predecessor, the University of Twente was also among the most prominent participants. Robotics has become even more prominent within Horizon 2020. The programme is focused on developing a new generation of flexible robots (adaptable robots) for industrial and service applications that can communicate with people in everyday situations. Some examples include medical robots and emergency response robots, or industrial and service robots, and even interactive robots with cognitive skills. Within Horizon 2020, the EU facilitates the continued development of key technologies, and subsidizes projects that focus on introducing, testing and validating innovative solutions in everyday life (real-world context). The DE-ENIGMA project is financed from the ICT sub-programme “Technologies for better human learning and teaching”. MURAB and SoftPro fall within the “Robotics” sub-programme.
Its main spot in the subsidy programme of the EU emphasizes the quality of the activities in the area of robotics in the Eastern Netherlands. The LEO Center for Service Robotics is the network organization in the area of robotics in the Eastern Netherlands. The centre was founded under the name of RoMEch in 2008, and changed its name to LEO Center for Service Robotics in 2010.