ORE Catapult and ORCA Hub team up to develop robotics for offshore renewables

The research organisations will collaborate to further develop and amplify the sector’s robotics opportunity

ORE Catapult and ORCA Hub team up to develop robotics for offshore renewables

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) Hub – a collaboration led by the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics (Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh), with Imperial College London and the Universities of Oxford and Liverpool – have partnered up to help translate UK robotics innovation and research expertise into products and services for the offshore renewables’ industry.

Both organisations will use their research expertise and unique test and demonstration facilities to undertake joint research programmes and projects, as well as developing future skills by supporting MSc and PhD projects. They will also develop a national strategy with specific robotics technology innovation roadmaps towards commercialisation.

Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s operational performance director, said the collaboration will “enhance the technical capability and credibility of our operations and maintenance centre of excellence”. “We will be able to bridge the gap between the cutting-edge applied robotics research taking place in the UK right now and the needs of industry, who are focused on driving down costs, improving health and safety and ultimately the productivity and efficiency of our offshore renewable energy plant,” he added.

Professor David Lane CBE, ORCA Hub director, said it “builds on our on-going work within the renewables sector”. “The ORCA Hub, part of the National Robotarium, is developing use-inspired robotics and AI technology from the science base, driven by industry challenges,” he continued. “There is enormous scope for the application of robotics solutions within the energy sector to reduce cost and risk, increase productivity and contribute towards net zero energy transition. We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the ORE to really drill drown on use cases, industry partnerships and our culture of development by demonstration.”

ORE Catapult is a technology innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy, whose strategy is to leverage its “unique facilities and expertise” to work with OEMs and other large industrials, developers, and owner/operators in the offshore wind industry to improve existing and develop next generation renewable energy technology in the UK.

The ORCA Hub is a multimillion-pound programme aimed at addressing the offshore energy industry’s vision for a completely autonomous offshore energy field. Launched in October 2017, it is part of the government’s £93m R&D funding on “robotics and AI for extreme environments”, through the Industry Strategic Challenge Fund (ISCF). The Hub’s primary goal is to use robotic systems and Artificial Intelligence to revolutionise Asset Integrity Management for the offshore energy sector through the provision of game-changing, remote solutions which are readily integratable with existing and future assets and sensors, and that can operate and interact safely in autonomous or semi-autonomous modes in complex and cluttered environments.

The two organisations last worked together in 2019, when ORCA Hub held a successful robotics demonstration day at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland, highlighting some of the cutting-edge technologies currently in development, and how these could be applied in the real-world.


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