“Our future will be shaped by technology”
Every year in November, the European Robotics Week (ERW) invites technology enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the world of robotics. ERW was launched by the European robotics association euRobotics. Dr. Kristina Wagner is Head of KUKA Group Research and, as of this year, also a member of the euRobotics Board. We talked to her about ERW, where the journey in robotics is headed – and why she would recommend a career in the world of technologies to young people.
Kristina, You joined the euRobotics board this year. What is the goal of the association and why did euRobotics create the European Robotics Week?
Dr. Kristina Wagner: “euRobotics is an international association representing all the players in European robotics. It was founded, among other things, with the aim of strengthening Europe’s competitiveness. We are convinced that there is still a lot of innovation potential in robotics and we want to promote European research, development and innovation in this important field. Because we are convinced: robotics makes the European and global economy innovative makes us innovative. In doing so, we take a close look at: What are the current top issues in robotics? What should we in Europe jointly consider in the funding and research landscape?
In addition, the association wants to promote the positive perception of robotics. That’s why we organize the European Robotics Week every year, to bring robotics research and development closer to the public, to remove fears of contact and also to get young people excited about technology. And this year we are even celebrating a small anniversary: every year since 2011, the ERW has offered a week of various robotics-related activities throughout Europe for the general public. Companies, institutes and facilities all over Europe join in, including KUKA. Different events and activities are designed to highlight the growing importance of robotics and the increasing importance of the so-called STEM fields, i.e. mathematics, computer science, natural science and technology.”
Talking about “growing importance of robotics”: Automation has become indispensable in many areas and is finding its way into more and more areas of our lives and work. According to euRobotics, what are the most important trends at the moment? And where is the journey heading?
“We see new areas such as healthcare, agriculture, or inspection of infrastructure such as wind turbines or bridges by drone as the main focus, in addition to the classic places of application such as production and logistics. But we also see agile, flexible production as an area where innovations around robotics have a major impact. But robotics itself is also constantly evolving thanks to artificial intelligence, cloud and perception technologies, and the like. These technological drivers are opening up many new and exciting applications.
And they are enormously important future topics for which we must set the course today. This is why euRobotics has formed ADRA with other associations to partner with the European Commission. ADRA stands for AI, Data and Robotics Association. The goal is a shared vision to be a global leader in the research, development and deployment of value-based, trustworthy AI, data and robotics based on European fundamental rights, principles and values.”
One of the key enablers to drive these technologies and innovations is a well-trained workforce. One of ERW’s goals is to inspire young people to pursue STEM professions. You yourself have a PhD in mathematics and lead the largest development project at KUKA. What would you like to pass on to young people and potential young professionals from your experience?
“For me, one thing is clear: our future will be shaped by technology. In my opinion, it is definitely worth taking this career path and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Everything is changing so quickly, and there’s hardly anything more exciting than dealing with these future issues surrounding robotics, AI and the like. And not every student has to have an exact job description in mind – I think if you do something, you’re passionate about, the rest will fall into place. The important thing is that you should do what you really enjoy, because only then will you be really good.”