17 March 2015, Vienna – Keynote speakers from the European Commission, the European Parliament, Industry and Unions, discussed the economic and societal impacts of robotics, during the opening of the 5th European Robotics Forum (ERF2015). Organised by euRobotics, ERF is the largest robotics networking event in Europe, and this year’s edition attracted a record number of delegates: over 600 were in attendance, including industrialists, researchers, investors, politicians and media.

Robotics is a pivotal technology that is permeating into almost all areas of European industry: from agricultural, transport and mining machinery, underwater and aerial inspection of constructions, to rescue and firefighting, or medical support for doctors and patients. ERF2015 kicked off with a panel discussion on “Robots or jobs?”

Addressing the fears that robots could replace jobs in large numbers, Zoran Stancic, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission, DG CONNECT, pointed out that “there is clear information that robots don’t steal jobs, we have to make this information freely available to all stakeholders”.

Jorg Hofmann, who is member of the Supervisory Board of Daimler AG and Vice Chairman of the German Metalworkers’ Union (IG Metall), highlighted that “past waves of innovation have been counterbalanced by gains in other sectors: it’s not a question of jobs, it’s a question of quality of jobs, and how we qualify our workforce to manage this change.”

“We need the human being; we need smart factories, not dark factories. We need to train people to work in these factories, with increased skills. A new generation R [for robots] is developing autonomous cars and co-working robots. To develop robot systems that are easy to use by people – that’s a key driver,” said Bernd Liepert, President of euRobotics and CINO of industrial robotics manufacturer, KUKA.

“In general, introducing robotics increases employment: as we work with robots, productivity goes up and generates income”, explained Maarten Goos, leading researcher in this area from Leuven University’s Research Centre of Monetary and Information Economics.

The European Institutions are actively considering the economic and societal changes brought about by robotics. The European Parliament is engaged in these discussions. “The overall goals are to strengthen the European economy and protect the social and fundamental rights of the citizen”, announced Mady Delvaux-Stehres, MEP and Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.

The panel concluded that communicating the realities of robotics to the wider public is key. Co-working with robots, the panel agreed, will be one of the evolutions of society.

Background information

About ERF 2015

After its start in San Sebastian in 2010, this annual event has quickly become the most influential meeting of the European robotics scene. With ERF2015, this prestigious event has been for the first time in Austria.

ERF2015 took place on 11-13 March 2015, at the “Aula der Wissenschaften” and hosted more than 30 community-driven workshops with topics covering the newest developments and trends within robotics. ERF2015 was organised by euRobotics with local support from Prof. Markus Vincze of the Automation and Control Institute at Technical University of Vienna (TU Wien).

About euRobotics AISBL

euRobotics AISBL, based in Brussels, is an international non-profit association representing stakeholders in European robotics.

One of the association’s main missions is to work with the European Institutions and other stakeholders to develop and implement a strategy and a roadmap for research, technological development and innovation in robotics. With 230 members, euRobotics is the Voice of Robotics in Europe.