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Govt grant to promote automation 'could kickstart economy'

18 January 2011

A new government grant to promote the benefits of automation may help kickstart a wave of long overdue investment in robotic production equipment

Alan Shilton, managing director of Halesowen-based KUKA Automation + Robotics, also believes greater use of robots will make it easier for UK manufacturers to become more competitive at home and abroad.

The £600,000 aid will support a two-year programme that aims to better prepare companies to introduce new automated and robotic systems and will include a series of regional educational events organised by members of the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) plus other trade bodies.

The grant follows the results of a study, commissioned by the Engineering and Machinery Alliance (EAMA), to identify the main barriers to automation within small and medium sized businesses. KUKA were one of the sponsors of the study, which compared UK companies with firms in Germany, Spain and Sweden.

It not only revealed that UK producers have fallen a long way behind European competitors in terms of robot use, but also discovered that the main barriers to take-up were lack of knowledge and skills and a risk-averse attitude.

“Provided this grant is used in the right way, it represents a significant amount of engineering effort that can be applied to providing robust, workable automation solutions for companies that may have shied away from introducing robotics into the workplace in the past,” said Alan.

As well as highlighting the importance of putting more investment into automation, the study was also a good example of the Government’s ‘Big Society’ drive to put more decision-making powers into people’s hands, he added.

“This exercise has demonstrated how a group of people, concerned with the way that UK manufacturing lags behind the rest of Europe, can come together to try and address the problem.

“Having seen the results of the work that has been done, the Government has endorsed these efforts and decided to back them up in a tangible way by offering this significant grant. Even though this project was commenced in 2009 well before the new Government came into power, it will likely pave a new way in which businesses and institutions can work together for the benefit of all,” said Alan.

But he warned that further support was required for the UK manufacturing sector because of its crucial role in creating employment and generating revenue.

“While this Government help is very welcome and a great start, it is only the beginning. We need a healthy, vibrant and innovative manufacturing sector to help bring the country out of its current problems and set us on the road to economic recovery,” he stated.


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