New foresight review on robotics and autonomous systems: Serving a safer world

Associations, Classification Societies, Technical, Technology — By on October 14, 2016 at 12:43 PM
Prof Richard Clegg

Prof Richard Clegg

Latest foresight review from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation looks at how developments in the area of robotics and autonomous systems might impact the safety and performance of the engineered assets and the infrastructures on which modern society relies.

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the leading UK charity supporting engineering-related research and education worldwide, today launches its Foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems at the first Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Conference in London.

There is a revolution happening around us and all over the world. Smart, connected machines, or robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), are acting as tools to support us, making independent decisions and even learning. They act and sense in the real world, connected and collaborating in the internet of things, generating and enabled by large quantities of data, using artificial intelligence to reason, classify, control and interact. They have emerged from research prototypes into practical applications. Autonomous and semi-autonomous cars on our streets are one very public example.

Prof Richard Clegg, Foundation Chief Executive of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation said: “This review looks at robotics and autonomous systems through the lens of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. It shows how they are already being used to enhance safety and how these capabilities might grow. Its findings shine a light on the positive contribution robots will make to society, and makes the case for robots that serve a safer world.”

The report looks forward at how developments in the area of RAS might impact the safety and performance of the engineered assets and the infrastructures on which modern society relies. It finds that research and development in RAS is proceeding at pace through public and privately funded programmes predominantly in Europe, Asia and North America. These programmes address much of the sensing, control, planning, embodiment, human interface, and collaboration technologies to realise these new and smarter tools. However, there are some important areas which need addressing if society is to see the safety benefits from the implementation of RAS, and where the Foundation may be well positioned to lead or support other international efforts. These include issues of: openness and sharing; assurance and certification; security and resilience; and of public trust, understanding and skills.

The review was drawn together by Professor David Lane, Professor of Autonomous Systems Engineering and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, at Heriot-Watt University and the other principal authors were Dr David Bisset, iTechnic Ltd; Dr Rob Buckingham, UKAEA; Geoff Pegman, RU Robotics Ltd; and Professor Tony Prescott, University of Sheffield. The review used input from a panel of international experts who met in London in March 2016. An online consultation was also opened with respondents contributing from all over the globe.

This report is the fifth in a series commissioned by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation as part of its emerging technologies research theme. Foundation grants and programmes that have resulted from previous reviews include a £10 million research grant for the Alan Turing Institute (The Foresight review of big data, 2014), grants totalling £9 million to three international consortia in the field of nanotechnology (Foresight review of nanotechnology, 2014), and a £10 million resilience engineering programme announced today, established by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation in partnership with global engineering and consultancy firm, Arup (Foresight review of resilience engineering, 2015).

The Foundation’s publication, Foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems, can be downloaded from the website at

Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Conference 2016 
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Conference 2016 is being held over two days in London on 13 and 14 October. The conference, titled Bringing safety to life, is the first to be held by the Foundation. It is a public event, gathering Foundation grant holders from around the world gathered to showcase the breadth, variety and impact of their work. Speakers include:
•    Prof Sir Andre Geim, Nobel Prize Winner and Regius Professor and Royal Society Research Professor at The University of Manchester
•    Lord David Willetts, Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation, Chair of the British Science Association
•    Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk, Professor of Biostatistics and Fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University
•    Dr Nancy Kete, former Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation leading global resilience work
•    Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government and Head of the Government Office for Science

The Foundation’s publication, Foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems, can be downloaded from the website at

About the Lloyd’s Register Foundation
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation: Connecting science, safety and society

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation is a UK charity, established in 2012, which funds the advancement of engineering-related education and research and supports work that enhances safety of life and property. It is funded partly by the profits of its trading arm, Lloyd’s Register Group Limited, a global engineering, technical and business services organisation.

Its vision is to be known worldwide as a leading supporter of engineering-related research, training and education that makes a real difference in improving the safety of the critical infrastructure on which modern society relies. In support of this, it promotes scientific excellence and acts as a catalyst working with others to achieve maximum impact.

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s strategy for 2014-2020 focuses funding on four strategic themes: promoting safety and public understanding of risk; advancing skills and education; supporting excellent scientific research; and accelerating the application of research. Four research themes have been prioritised: structural integrity and systems performance; resilience engineering; human and social factors; and emergent technologies. See more at:

Income for the Foundation, which comes from the trading arm gift-aiding a proportion of its profits and from investments, was £19.5 million for the 2014/15 financial year, and grants awarded were £12.7 million (and a £10 million grant was awarded just after the year-end). This equates to charitable spending of 65% of income (or 116% taking into account the donation just after year-end). In the 2013/14 financial year, charitable spending was £17.2 million or 143% of income, with the Foundation digging into its reserves to fund charitable causes.


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