Juha Röning has been newly elected as euRobotics’ Vice President Research, following several years as a member of the association’s Board of Directors and of the Executive Team. In his ‘day job’, Juha is Professor of Embedded Systems at the University of Oulu in Finland. He serves also as Visiting Professor of Tianjin University of Technology. A former Fulbright Scholar, Juha has published more than 400 papers in the areas of computer vision, robotics, intelligent signal analysis and software security. Here, Juha offers some personal reflections as he assumes his latest role for euRobotics. 

Firstly I humbly thank my fellow Research members of euRobotics for the trust they have placed in me to take on the role of Vice President Research. I will do my very best to represent the interests and concerns of our Research community.  

To be elected at the General Assembly in Odense on the eve of this year’s European Robotics Forum was a proud moment. And the three days of ERF that followed lived up to every expectation that we could have had. It was a success from beginning to end and a credit to the huge team who helped to make it happen, led by Christian Schlette and Morten Nielsen, who did a splendid job in his own unique style, full of personality.  

After another successful ERF we look at the calendar again and remember that the year is moving on. Every day the daylight lasts a little bit longer and after the dark months of winter that’s really welcome, especially here in central Finland where we are not far from the Arctic Circle.  

I take on the role of VP Research in the knowledge that I follow Stefano Stramigioli, a true ambassador for robotics, who fulfilled the responsibilities of this role admirably and tirelessly, not even counting the hours he worked to progress the cause of European robotics both within our continent and around the world. Stefano, thank you.  

We have a strong motivation to keep the real robotics flag flying high. What I mean by this is that we find ourselves under the umbrella of AI according to the European Commission. This is fine and it can work well but only if robotics is recognised in its own right for its distinctive features. We need to keep clearly in mind and understand the essential fact that in robotics we have a mechanical device capable of movement and manipulation that interacts physically with our environment. We can and we must use data and learning techniques to provide robots with the intelligence and capacity to perform tasks and react to changes in their environment. But for us the starting point is the physical, mechanical device.   

Every year we celebrate the best of robotics research with the euRobotics PhD Award. At the same time and at the same ceremony we recognise the best in technology transfer and entrepreneurship. That’s exactly as it should be. Within my research unit, my motto is: If you have a new idea I am interested in, I could hire you. If you can proof that it works, even better. And if it can be transferred to business, that’s the best! With more than 10 spin-off companies established from my research unit, I am always ready to support new spin-offs. Research and Industry go hand in hand. That is part of the founding spirit that led to the creation of euRobotics and working with our existing VP Industry Rainer Bischoff in my new role as VP Research that’s a collaborative spirit that I will continue to support.