Robots in Society #2

Robots in society (A series of information seminars on robotics)

Detailed programme Registration
The main aim of these seminars is to bring together everyone with an interest in Robotics, i.e., researchers in robotics, professionals in a variety of robot application domains and stakeholders from the general public to discuss the growing role of robots in everyday life and the emerging technical, regulatory, ethical and legal challenges being faced to satisfy the ageing societal requirements for personal care and medical services.

The role of robots is evolving rapidly from their industrial manufacturing roots to a wide variety of service applications where close human-robot interaction is needed. A key feature of robots is that they possess a “degree of autonomy” and hence can have the capability to make independent decisions for fulfilling their intended task. Good examples are physical assistant robots which are “personal care robots that physically assist a user in performing required tasks by providing supplementation or augmentation of personal capabilities”, these are planned to help with personal mobility for maintaining independence and quality of life of elderly persons. Other examples include medical robots for surgery, or rehabilitation of patients or provide support to disabled persons (such as mobility of amputees or education of children with autism). Even driverless cars and drones can come under the “robotics agenda”. How the new emerging robots and their autonomous capabilities should be introduced in the various applications is causing a variety of concerns relating to safety, ethics, and law.

The DRAFT programme is now available as a pdf flyer in the link above.

The main areas of focus of the second seminar of the series are:

  • Industrial robots
  • Mobile robots
  • Service robots

Dr. Raphael Grech
MTC Coventry

Title: Robots for manufacturing

One of the main challenges with existing manufacturing processes is that they are designed for high volume streamlined products. Existing processes and machinery are unsuitable for handling small batches or bespoke designs due to the time and effort required in tool changeover, complexity in parts handling, logistics flow and the amount of human interaction required. This talk will look at how intelligent and adaptable automation systems can be developed for advanced manufacturing processes requiring human-robot interaction within a safe dynamic environment and how they can be integrated and run alongside existing work practices. We will look at current and coming technologies on human-robot interaction, existing safety standards and where we need to be in order to have a safe and practical human-robot collaboration. Advanced robotic manipulators and intelligent sensing technologies would provide increased flexibility to manufacturing systems, giving them the ability to think and act autonomously in a safe manner.

Dr. Raphael Grech is an engineer and research scientist (PhD) with over 15 years of industrial and academic experience in the fields of automation systems, algorithm design, robotics research and development, electrical and electronic design, embedded software design, strategy planning and project management. As a Technical Specialist on Intelligent Automation at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, Dr. Grech provides technical leadership, guidance and strategic planning to identify and resolve various robot design, sensing and production issues for the UK manufacturing sector. His previous job was with Dyson Ltd., UK as an Advanced Robotics Algorithms and Systems Engineer, working on intelligent robotics research and development mostly in the areas of Robot Control and Computer Vision. Earlier positions included those of Senior Electrical Design Engineer at Methode Electronics Malta Ltd. (Subsidiary of Methode Electronics, Inc. Chicago, USA), which is an automotive electronics design and manufacturing company; and Product Specialist within Carlo Gavazzi Malta Ltd., which designs and manufactures Solid State power components and Smart Home automation products. Dr. Grech is a UK chartered engineer, IET Member, and Senior IEEE Member. Dr. Grech is also an Executive Member of the IET Robotics and Mechatronics TPN and a Committee Member on AMT/10 – UK National committee on Robots and Robotic Devices.

Steve Thompson
Nissan, UK

To be announced

Prof. Tariq Sattar,
London South Bank University

Title: Reliable Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)

Reliable Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) is vital to the integrity, performance management and sustainability of capital assets in safety critical industries such as oil and gas, aerospace, transportation, power generation and off-shore and subsea operations. The presentation will show climbing and swimming robots developed to detect weld and corrosion defects on ship hulls, floating platforms, mooring chains, petrochemical storage tanks, pressure vessels, concrete structures, wind blades and aircraft wings and fuselages. Such developments provide the possibility of making huge saving by reducing outage times or carrying out the NDT in-service thus preventing expensive outages.

Professor Tariq Sattar is a pioneer in the development of robotic Non-Destructive Testing. He leads the research in this area in his role as the TWI chair and Director of the London South Bank Innovation Centre (LSBIC) based in Cambridge which collaborates with TWI Ltd, the National Structural Integrity research Centre and London South Bank University to research and develop automation and robotics for non-destructive testing. He has led the development of mobile wall-climbing and swimming robots that provide access to very large safety critical structures to deploy a range of non-destructive testing techniques. These robotic systems have addressed the problems of performing robotic inspection in petrochemical storage tanks, in nuclear plant for inspection and decommissioning, on aircraft fuselage and wings, inside floating production oil storage tanks, on the hulls of ships, on large steel plates, on wind turbine blades, on aircraft turbine blades, on large buildings while operating on brick, concrete and glass surfaces and on off-shore mooring chains, oil and gas risers. His research has won eleven awards for best papers and industrial innovation in the field of robotics. It was selected by the Royal Society for its 350th anniversary summer science exhibition and again by the Royal Academy of Engineering as an interactive display in its zone at the Big Bang event, ICC ExCel Centre.

Dr Simon Watson,
Manchester University

Title: Robots for nuclear applications

This presentation gives an overview of the types of mobile robots which are being developed to support the decommissioning of nuclear sites like Sellafield and Fukushima. There are significant challenges in deploying robots to characterise potentially radioactive environments, such as size, payload, power, communications, localisation and the effects of radiation. A number of novel platforms are being developed to investigate these areas and provide information which can be used to plan retrievals and decommissioning.

Dr Simon Watson is a Lecturer in Robotic Systems at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester. He obtained his MEng in Mechatronic Engineering in 2008 and his PhD in 2012, both from the University of Manchester. His research focus is on mobile robots for the exploration and characterisation of hazardous and extreme environments, and active areas of research include novel platform design, communications and localisation, sensing and navigation and multi-level control. His current research portfolio includes developing robots for the nuclear industry (for the Sellafield and Fukushima sites), power generation (offshore wind) and agriculture (pest control). He also works closely with industry to take robotic platforms from University prototypes through to commercially viable systems, such as the AVEXIS underwater vehicle, which was recently deployed on the Sellafield site.

Prof. Gurvinder S. Virk
CLAWAR & InnotecUK

Title: Service robots

The presentation gives an overview of robotics from its early roots in traditional industrial manufacturing applications through the growing need for mobile robots to the current growing interest in service robots for both medical and non-medical scenarios. Throughout these developments, the technical and non-technical challenges have grown and how these are being addressed will be described. In the main, the design basis for the traditional applications has been to keep robots and humans apart due to safety concerns. More recently, the trend is towards involving close human-robot interactions to realise service robots for assistive applications especially to address the global ageing society problems. These have led to new ISO robot standardization projects and activities to address growing ethical concerns.

Professor Gurvinder S. Virk (BSc, PhD, DIC, FIET, FCIBSE, CEng, CMath, FIMA, MIEEE). Prof Virk is Technical Director at InnotecUK Limited in with responsibility to lead R&D projects and product development for realising inspection robots for hazardous applications; in addition, he is Adjunct Professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden and at IIT Ropar, India. He holds a PhD in Control Theory from Imperial College, University of London, UK and his current interests are in commercialisation of NDT inspection robots, wearable exoskeleton robots for health and wellbeing, medical robots for rehabilitation, active and assistive living applications, robot safety standardisation, robot modularity and interoperability, social robotics and robot ethics. He has held senior academic leadership roles in UK (Universities of Bradford, Portsmouth, and Leeds), New Zealand (Massey University) and Sweden (University of Gävle) as well as visiting Professor positions in China (Zhejiang University), France (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris), and Germany (Fachhochschule Südwestfalen, Soest). He is also Trustee and Treasurer of the UK registered charity CLAWAR whose mission is to advance robotics for the public benefit (see He has been awarded, the Freedom of the City of London for his work in promoting Information Technology and is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technology.

He has held several grants from national and European sources (total value ≈€20m), as well as industry. He has produced over 350 papers in these areas and 14 books, and 16 successfully supervised PhDs. Prof Virk is also a key actor in robot standardisation and is currently Convenor of several international robot standardisation groups, namely:
ISO TC299/SG1 Gaps and structure
ISO TC299/WG2 Personal care robot safety, 2006-2016
IEC TC62/SC62A & ISO TC299/ JWG9 Medical electrical equipment and systems using robotic technology (medical robots)
ISO TC299/ JWG5 Medical robot safety
ISO TC299/WG6 Modularity for service robots

These groups are developing important standards for new emerging robots.

Dr Sanja Dogramadzi,
UWE, Bristol

Title: Medical robots

Dr Isabel Ferreira,
Lisbon Univ, Portugal

Title: Robots in education

In the last decade, several studies have reported the apparent benefits of the inclusion of robotic technology in children and teenagers’ learning environments. The experience already provided by field tests covering not only STEM topics but many others, as vocabulary and language learning, have generally shown that robots can make a learner-centered class more enjoyable, increasing motivation levels and fostering the curiosity and autonomy of students. Stemming from the state of the art in what concerns the deployment of robots in the educational domain, the presentation will focus the benefits and also the potential critical factors that the deployment of robotics, namely social robotics, at school, can involve.

Maria Isabel Aldinhas Ferreira is a Portuguese linguist and semiotician. She is a member and researcher of the Centre of Philosophy of the University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal and a researcher at the Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics of Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon. Her present work comprehends the analysis of the linguistic and social phenomena involved in Human-Robot Interaction; the assessment and benchmarking of user-experience and the definition of guidelines and roadmaps for the safe and ethical deployment and use of ICT, namely of robotics. Maria has a Masters in Anglo-American Studies, a Masters in Linguistics and a Ph.D. in Linguistics (University of Lisbon). She has also attended a course in Lexicology, Lexicography and Computational Linguistics at the University of Pisa and an Advanced Course in Artificial Intelligence by the University of Stanford.

Dr Sarah Fletcher,
Cranfield University

Title: Robots in ethics

London South Bank University

Keyworth Centre

Venue Details
Keyworth Centre,
Keyworth Street,

For details of how to find the venue, please click on the link below:

Gurvinder S. Virk; 

David Rippon;

Peter Dudley;

Helen Simon;

Jean Irvine;

Nigel Lewis;

The events are organised by BCSWCIT and CLAWAR Association Limited as core partners.


BCS The Chartered Institute for IT promotes wider social and economic progress through the advancement of information technology science and practice (see

WCIT is the 100th City of London Livery Company with the aim to promote the IT industry for contributing to the greater good of society (see

CLAWAR is a UK registered charity with the mission: “The advancement of education and science for the public benefit in the field of robotics and associated technologies” (see

Gurvinder S. Virk;