According to the International Federation of Robotics, collaborative and wearable robots have become the largest trend in robotics with high demand for skilled graduates. Collaborative industrial robots enable manufacturers to improve productivity by complementing human skills, relieving employees of heavy, unergonomic and tedious tasks. They play a vital role in the automotive sector. For millions of people with physical disabilities, wearable robotic technologies make everyday life easier or assist their rehabilitation. The EU collaborative robots market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 50.02% during 2018-2026. The global surgical robots market is rapidly expanding and is anticipated to reach $19.96bn in 2019. This means that the development of robotics could have a significant impact on Europe’s capacity to expand a competitive industry with millions of related jobs at stake.
There has been a clear focus on developing more user-friendly robots as current models often have flaws that disappoint users. As per Multi-Annual Roadmap for Robotics in Europe 2020, development of enabling technologies to improve wearable and collaborative robots is one of the main priorities. The more user-centered is the design of such robots produced in Europe - the greater are the overall acceptance of technology among users and the global market share. These days, the market is dominated by the US and Japan. Given that an increasing number of EU citizens will need healthcare/rehabilitation in the coming decades, massive introduction of well-designed medical and rehabilitation robots could have a significant social and economic impact for the EU. The knowledge of physiology, neuroscience, ergonomics, interaction design is therefore becoming a more widely sought professional quality for robot engineers.
In this context, WeCoRD project aims to enhance the EU higher education capacity in teaching enabling technologies in wearable and collaborative robotics for medical and industrial applications to fill in the skill gap between, on the one hand, the industry and the labour market needs and, on the other hand, the quality and quantity of the graduates.
WeCoRD brings together five internationally renowned institutions from Turkey, Belgium, Russia and the Netherlands to combine their advanced expertise on enabling technologies in a validated innovative course offer of excellence, extended with professionally produced open educational resources, and an online Virtual Lab aimed at accessibility and fostering implementation across Europe. The project partners will select the most relevant methods, tools, and findings in engineering, design and medical research to introduce them into curricula by producing four dedicated transdisciplinary modules. These will equip graduates with the right skills and with the mindset of future technology leaders.
WeCoRD's impact will be strongest at EU level, while also providing benefits to society and the economy at local, regional and national level. Through intensive cross-border and transdisciplinary cooperation, the project will produce results that are likely to become self-sustaining and develop further, such as the WeCoRD teaching community and the Virtual Lab. The project will help to prepare graduates for the robotics industry and other employers, thus contributing to making the economies of the Erasmus+ Programme countries more research-driven, knowledge-based, and competitive.