- Economic Dynamics
The Midi-Pyrenees region, with France’s highest research activity, has been contributing since 2012 to the development of robotics in France and in Europe, offering a new key to competitiveness for business and a new opportunity for society.
In 2013, Midi-Pyrenees was one of the three French regions selected by the Ministry of Productive Recovery for the deployment of the “robotics plan.” The regional academic and scientific skills of the sector are indeed recognized internationally and now combine with a fast-growing economic fabric. Midi-Pyrenees forms a true pool of cross-functional skills for innovation and value creation in this sector, and is already involved in ensuring France’s place among the leaders in the industry by 2020.
Three markets, for which the introduction of robotics has become clear, are expanding in particular: agriculture, personal assistance and smart cities.
A more intelligent city: the "smart city" concept refers to a type of urban development to meet the economic, social and environmental needs of government, businesses and citizens. This concept of the city comes into play at different levels such as transportation, energy and urban planning.
The personal assistance market: assistive robotics is currently one of the most invested sectors with extensive research and a high diversity of robotic products which can provide motor skills assistance as well as companionship, and real care-giving. The ongoing objective is to constantly improve the autonomy of dependent persons. This issue strikes a particular chord in the current demographic context of a rapidly ageing population.
The agricultural market: robotics has applications in the agricultural sector, bringing more flexibility to producers with regard to business constraints and work organization. Whether it is planting seeds, weeding plots or carrying loads, agricultural robots seem to be able to assist the farmer in all kinds of tasks.
- The global market for service robotics in 2015 (study commissioned by PIPAME of DGCIS)
- 8 billion dollars for personal service robotics
- 18 billion dollars for professional service robotics By 2020, it is expected to reach $100 billion (study by the European Commission)
- The industry in Midi-Pyrenees is made up of:
- 50 companies
- 17 laboratories
- 9 technological platforms
- 1,500 industrial jobs
Key industrial players
Major players in research
LAAS-CNRS (650 people)
LAAS-CNRS has developed an impressive pool of robots (3 indoor robots, 1 humanoid robot, 2 robots on “wheels” and 6 outdoor robots, including 4 UAVs). The aim of this research complex is to maintain and develop hardware and software architecture of the robot fleet and train users. In 2013, LAAS-CNRS was already a partner in 19 projects on robotics and a coordinator in 13 others. It is also part of various research groups, both national (GDR Robotique, Robotex) and European (European Robotics Research Network). Three of its research teams are particularly focused on robotics:
- The RAP - Robotics, Action and Perception team works on visual and acoustic perception of the environment by the robot and resulting changes in the robot’s actions.
- The RIS - Robotics and Interactions team deals with cognitive robotics: its research concerns the autonomy and decision-making ability of robots in human/robot or multi-robots action groups, with variable complexity over time.
- The Gepetto team is interested in everything that concerns humanoid movements, for artificial robots as well as for virtual environments and humans.
IRIT, the Toulouse Computer Science Research Institute (490 people)
IRIT covers all aspects of programming, collective intelligence and interactions relating to robotics and seeks to design flexible systems from the decisional perspective. Six of its teams are looking into the development of robots:
- SMAC (Cooperative Multi-Agent Systems), in partnership with LAAS-CNRS) and ELIPSE (Study of Person System Interaction) teams are working on modeling and designing systems in which interaction, dialogue and cooperation between agents are predominant.
- SAMOVA (Structuring, Analysis and Modeling Video and Audio Documents) team focuses on robots’ perception functions.
- ADRIA (Argument, Decision, Reasoning, Uncertainty and Training) team develops new reasoning models and seeks to establish new criteria for qualitative decisions, closer to the ways in which humans make their choices.
- MACAO (Models, Aspects and Components for Object Architecture) team has significant expertise in software engineering applicable to robotics.
- ICS (Interactive Critical Systems) team focuses on human-machine interactions, particularly factors such as user experience, reliability and fault tolerance.
4 major focuses of other research units
Cognition, which refers to all mental processes (such as memory, reasoning, learning, decision making or perception), enables a robot to understand its environment:
- INP-ENIT and its Production Engineering laboratory and its Dynamic Decision and Interaction for Systems (DIDS).
- ONERA, working on cognitive sciences for piloting, guidance, planning and decision support.
- UT2 and its CLLE laboratory, conducts studies on ergonomic psychology and human cognition in complex situations.
- UT2 and its Octagon division, focuses on haptic perception.
- UT3 and its Research Centre on Animal Cognition study all cognitive processes.
- UT3 with CERCO (Brain and Cognition Research Center), focuses on the processing of information received.
- UT3 and its LAPMA laboratory work on the ability of the robot to adapt its physical movements to the sensory information received.
Human-machine interaction, i.e. the action or reciprocal influence that can be established between the two:
- The La Grave Geronto-technology Laboratory studies the interaction with companion robots.
- ICAM works on the same type of interaction, for companion as well as agricultural robots.
- ENAC and its 2 laboratories - Interactive Computing and Drones - are working on the computing aspect of this interaction.
- IASE and its DAEP and DMIA research departments are interested in cooperative robotics and modeling a common human/machine environment.
Energy autonomy is being studied by the Laplace laboratory, where two teams are carrying out research on energy management.
Organizational changes brought about by the emergence of ICTs, studied by LEREPS (Laboratory for studies and research on the economy, policies and social systems).
- The ADREAM platform of LAAS-CNRS: LAAS-CNRS has a platform for evaluating companion robots within its infrastructure: ADREAM is a scientific project as well as the instrument-equipped, experimental building that houses it, dedicated to research on energy optimization, ambient intelligence and companion robots. The building is thus equipped with a facade and a roof with photovoltaic panels that allow work on new energy systems.
- The Automation CRITT has technical resources intended for research on industrial manufacturing processes and products. The aim of the Robotics Platform is to promote the introduction of robotics in SMEs. This technology transfer center facilitates:
- Discovery of new technical possibilities of robots through demonstration sessions.
- Targeted tests to establish the feasibility of specific projects.
- IRIT’s virtual reality platform has been deployed for the development, experimentation and demonstration of research work on interaction. The platform has gradually acquired diversified equipment adapted to the requirements of research teams whose work affects the interaction of various modalities of perception. It provides a favorable framework to develop projects, host work groups, support research work of the Master’s level to senior researchers.
Other platforms provide their equipment and skills to companies:The LAAS "robot platform", the Fahrenheit Mutualized Innovation Platform, Artilect FAB LAB, the Smart Home, the PRIMES platforms, as well as the inter-establishment industrial automation workshop.
And a Cluster dedicated to robotics: Robotics Place
Robotics Place brings together all dynamic forces that constitute robotics in Midi-Pyrenees: integrators, suppliers of technology building blocks, component suppliers, users, training and research organizations, etc. This therefore involves promoting the region in the field of robotics and pooling technical and human resources.
Robotics Place caters to all types of robotics: service or industrial, military or civil, with the goal of promoting collaborative projects and making Midi-Pyrenees robotics an example internationally.
From start-ups to large industrial groups including research centers, the cluster numbered some thirty players throughout the region in 2013.