The National Robotarium, the UK’s largest and most advanced research centre for robotics and artificial intelligence, was lauded as the ‘gold standard’ in a Scottish Parliament debate on the future of robotics technology in Scotland and the UK.

Led by Gordon Macdonald MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, where the National Robotarium is based as part of Heriot-Watt University’s campus in partnership with The University of Edinburgh, the debate on Wednesday 18 January received cross-party support, with ministers in agreement that the UK would greatly benefit giving prioritisation to growing its robotics skills, technology, and manufacturing capabilities.

As part of the discussion, available to watch at this link, ministers highlighted how the National Robotarium is exploring the use of new robotic technologies for solving industry and societal problems, sharing examples of current projects within the health and social care, renewable energy, and agriculture sectors. The centre’s approach to developing these robotic products and services based on user needs and feedback, which has proven to improve adoption and integration in people’s daily lives, was also commended within the chamber.

Governmental support to further grow Scotland’s leading science, engineering and technology centres, like the National Robotarium, which has received £22.4m funding from the UK and Scottish Governments as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, was agreed to be a positive step-change to improving the nations’ credentials as global leaders in STEM. Points raised during the debate were also in largely in favour of developing a strategic policy for the robotics sector, including factors such as testing and development, production, education, skills, ethics and regulation, to ensure the UK doesn’t continue to fall behind its global competitors.

Stewart Miller, CEO of the National Robotarium, said: “I’m grateful to Mr Macdonald for raising this important debate in Parliament and highlighting the work we’re doing at the National Robotarium to build skills and increase the adoption of robotics and AI across all sectors.

“Many of the points raised during the debate clearly illustrate how the expansion of robotics capabilities can positively impact both the economy and society as a whole. The National Robotarium is an important milestone in this story, however, only with increased government support and investment can Scotland and the UK fully realise its potential to become a leading knowledge base and potential manufacturing hub for robotics.”

Mr McDonald said: “I am delighted to be leading my members debate on the National Robotarium, the largest and most advanced applied research facility for robotics and artificial intelligence found anywhere in the UK and located here in the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency.

“On a recent visit to the centre I saw first-hand the incredible work they are doing in their state-of-the-art facility and heard about the aspirations of the centre and indeed the opportunities for Scotland.

“The National Robotarium will be central in creating opportunities for companies to establish, develop and scale up, as well as meeting the future challenges of growth and manufacturing but it is imperative we have a trained workforce so planning for skills is crucial if we are to realise this industry’s potential.”