Opening up the world of robotics

An Artist’s impression of the new centre of excellence proposed by RACE

An Artist’s impression of the new centre of excellence proposed by RACE

First published in Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

A £15.6m centre in Culham, for training engineers to use robotic arms, has lodged plans for a 3,000sqm facility.

The Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) building, in the Culham Science Centre, will have cutting-edge facilities to develop remote handling techniques.

Scientists at the complex’s fusion energy project, Joint European Torus (JET), have been using the remote controls for 20 years – but the technology also has applications in deep space and deep sea exploration.

RACE director Dr Rob Buckingham said companies which joined the project would benefit from the centre’s “tremendous expertise”.

He said: “RACE will offer its customers the technical support to use the world’s best robotics to solve problems in their challenging environments.

“I am excited about leading RACE and there is no better place for it than Culham.”

The Culham site at present has a small labatory for training people to use the device, but it is understood that permission is now being sought from South Oxfordshire District Council for a large purpose-built facility.

It is hoped the centre will attract small and medium-sized businesses, as well as multinationals and universities.

The technology has been used primarily by scientists at Culham to carry out maintenance on the JET experiment, with the aim of refining the techniques for use in its successor fusion project in France, ITER.

But it is also thought to have applications in many other industries, including nuclear power, oil and gas, construction and the exploration of deep-sea and space.

Oxford Mail:

  • The interior of what the facility could look like

The project has won the backing of the Government to the tune of £7.6m in the Oxford City Deal, signed in February. And that investment is reported to have been matched by the private sector.

Overall the worldwide market for the technology could represent £64bn each year, it is claimed, and could pump £200m annually into the UK economy.

A UK Atomic Energy Authority spokesman said 350 jobs could be created.

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