We want to make sure everyone at euRobotics gets the chance to read and get a glimpse of the workshops and other sessions that took place in Rotterdam. If you led a workshop, please upload your workshop reports and supporting documents in the relevant folder in the public directory: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1BuYls2cC82E-nZvcbL9rCqbL9hJBJogb?usp=sharing . The call is already out for workshop proposals for next year’s ERF (See the call later in this edition). There is no doubt that submitting your materials from Rotterdam will be a good step towards acceptance for your workshop for Odense.  

Meanwhile, here are the first two workshop reports from the Sustainability track at ERF 2022 Rotterdam: 

  • Application of Robotics for Sustainability 
  • Manufacturing of Sustainable Robots 

Reports from ERF2022 workshops 

WORKSHOP: Application of Robotics for Sustainability 


  • Sharath Chandra Akkaladevi, Profactor GmbH 
  • Franziska Kirstein, Blue Ocean Robotics 
  • Maria Pateraki, National Technical University of Athens 
  • Markus Vincze, TU Vienna 


  • Christian Eitzinger, Profactor GmbH  
  • George Michalos, Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems & Automation (LMS), University of Patras 
  • Damien Salle, TECNALIA 
  • Javier Sanchez-Cubillo, ZeniaLabs Automation Intelligence 
  • Stjepan Bogdan, University of Zagreb 

Workshop highlights  

About 60 participants attended the workshop from both academia and industry sectors. The session included five short (10-minute) talks from individual speakers followed by a 20-minute group discussion.  

In addition to the sustainable processes that can be realised through robots, there is also the question of the sustainability of robots themselves. The workshop discussed whether robots and robotic systems could be built where sustainability is already taken into account during the design phase. This would have an impact on the design of robots. 

In terms of sustainable tasks, questions related to the dismantling/disassembly of electronic waste were discussed. The main challenge in this case seems to be the economic feasibility. Currently, such processes have comparably high cycle times and also require significant energy input. Sustainable robotic systems will have to consider the economic feasibility, while the processes running on these robots will also have to be assessed for their environmental impact. A Life Cycle Assessment would be the procedure to be followed in this case. 

Finally, the topic of regulations was considered. In general, sustainable robots are no different from ‘normal’ robots in this respect. As long as the robot is operating “behind a fence”, there will be no problems. Robots that operate in outside environments, especially mobile ones (such as for waste collection or cleaning) or collaboratively with humans still have substantial difficulties to be implemented. Existing regulations are currently not allowing the industrial implementation of intelligent robots, due to the required safety devices that do not have sufficient intelligence, which invalidates the intelligence of the robot itself. 

Conclusions/next steps 

The workshop dealt with the following questions: Are robotics really able to solve the challenges related to sustainability? Are robots the solution to – or a problem for – sustainability?  

The workshop gathered experts from academia and industry to discuss the aspects of robotics and their role in sustainability and environmental aspects. The focus of the workshop was on the application of robotics to sustainability and as first steps, to define sustainable and environmental aspects in different sectors (notably manufacturing, agriculture, marine and energy) and clarify the role of robotic applications in solving them. 

The next steps would be to coordinate efforts to publish a white paper with the input received in the workshop, together with further input from TG Sustainability group members. 

A link to the workshop slides can be found here:  


WORKSHOP: Manufacturing of Sustainable Robots 


  • Franziska Kirstein, Blue Ocean Robotics 
  • Patrick Courtney, tec-connection 
  • Sharath Chandra Akkaladevi, Profactor GmbH 
  • Radhika Gudipati, Ocado Technology 


  • Fiachra O’Brolcháin, Dublin City University 
  • Patrick Courtney, tec-connection 
  • Radhika Gudipati, Ocado Technology 
  • Leendert Huis, Lely 
  • Franziska Kirstein, Blue Ocean Robotics 

Highlights from the workshop  

The workshop included short talks from five speakers for about 10 minutes each with short discussions between presentations and towards the end. Around 15 participants from academia and industry attended the session.  

The workshop focused on how robots can be designed, developed and manufactured in a more sustainable way. The use of robotics is increasing around the world and soon every household might have at least one robot in use. Robots can support sustainability across all sectors, such as fighting climate change, in recycling, decreasing waste in manufacturing, reducing the use of chemicals in farming and much more. However, the manufacturing of robots themselves can outbalance the positive impact of robotics if not addressed by the robotics community. Electronic waste is the “world’s fastest-growing solid-waste stream” and only a fraction of this waste is currently being recycled. The materials and designs used make it difficult to recycle these electronics. Toxic materials or rare-earth metals impose an additional environmental threat. The demand for robotics is increasing so rapidly that the sustainable production and the future disposal of robots has not been sufficiently addressed yet.  Robotics should not make the same mistake as the consumer electronics industry but should start developing sustainable robots before every household owns one. Sustainable manufacturing of robots includes using easy-to-recycle and renewable materials, manufacturing with a low ecological footprint and a focus on sustainable and fair production across the supply chain. 

The workshop focused on setting out these issues in presentations by Fiachra O’Brolcháin and Patrick Courtney; and subsequently on how robots can be designed, developed and manufactured in a more sustainable way around the aspects of energy, materials, lab and recycling/ circular product design. Three companies (Ocado Technology, Lely and Blue Ocean Robotics) outlined their efforts towards manufacturing. 

Conclusions / next steps  

The workshop dealt with the following questions: 

  • How to manufacture robots in a more sustainable way considering energy, materials, lab and recycling/ circular product design 
  • What attempts have been made to manufacture robots in a more sustainable way? What are the experiences and outcomes of this? 
  • What are the ‘low-hanging fruits’ in this journey and where are the real challenges? 

Presentations and discussions showed that there is a long way to go until robots can be manufactured in a more sustainable way, but that it is important to start these efforts now.  There are low-hanging fruits that robotics companies can initiate such as saving energy, switching to green energy or sorting waste. Other efforts include the lifetime extension of robots. Lely has extensive experience as it sees ‘lifetime extension’ as an important strategy to work on the circularity of its solutions because the best way to manufacture sustainable robots is not to make them but to keep the existing robots running. Lifetime extension means to understand a customer’s need and open their eyes to show that Used and Refurbished is a sustainable alternative for new. Also, robotic manufacturers need to design robots for a long and/or second life; meaning high quality parts usage, modular design and with service protocols. However, innovation power and technicians are risks to shortening the lifetime. To minimize these risks Lely shared its experience on how it invests in support teams, refurbishment training, knowledge sharing and making innovations compatible with its installed base. Overall, ‘lifetime extension’ is a big challenge and big investment for Lely. Thus, one conclusion from the discussion is the importance of inheriting ‘sustainability’ in a company’s DNA. From there, the focus needs to be on developing high quality products and involving customers and other stakeholders in sustainability efforts.  

The next steps would be to continue the discussion and share further experiences, practices and success stories with the community. Also, the Topic Group “Robotics in Sustainability” coordinates the efforts in publishing a white paper with the input received in the workshop. 

Link to the workshop slides: