National Robotarium appoints first chief executive

By Peter A Walker

The National Robotarium, hosted at Heriot-Watt University, has named its first chief executive.

Stewart Miller was previously chief technology officer of the UK Government agency Innovate UK.

Originally from Glasgow, but now living in East Lothian, he previously worked in senior roles at firms including Leonardo and BAE Systems.

Miller is tasked with building the National Robotarium into a globally recognised centre of excellence for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, working directly with business to accelerate innovation and drive value from research, create talent of the future through a flexible skills programme, and support entrepreneurs capable of creating new businesses.

The robotarium is a partnership between Heriot-Watt and the University of Edinburgh, and one of five innovation hubs supported by the £1.3bn Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal - a 15 year investment programme funded by both governments and regional partners.

Construction of a research facility for robotics and AI is already underway and is set to open in the Scottish capital in the spring of next year.

National Robotarium research projects are already well established, however. Last year, scientists launched the world’s first remote access assisted living lab to research and create smart technology solutions for the most vulnerable.

Work in hazardous environments research is also gathering pace, with projects ranging from self-building robotic scaffolding to aid nuclear decommissioning and disaster recovery to the use of SPOT robots, created by US-based company Boston Dynamics, which will be deployed on construction sites to improve safety and efficiency.

Miller said: “As someone who has been working in technology for 40 years, leading a facility that is tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges using robotics and AI is incredibly exciting.

“It is clear to me that this role presents an extraordinary opportunity to build productive global partnerships, creating economic, environmental and societal benefits.”

Professor Richard A Williams, principal and vice-chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, said: “Stewart’s appointment is a significant moment as we drive forward our collective research and education strengths to lead innovation in this area and to ensure, working with partners, we catalyse the talent pipeline needed to serve this fast-growing sector.”

Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes added: “This is a crucial time for business, trade and investment in Scotland.

“City Region and Growth Deals have a key role to play in our economic recovery from the pandemic as we work towards a fairer and more inclusive Scotland.

“Our investment in the National Robotarium is part of our £300m commitment to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which will help to build a future economy that benefits everyone.”

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