APRIL 8, 2014 – To many in the state’s growing automation sector, Michigan Robotics Week is the most important event of the year, a chance to build public awareness of the field and develop new cross-industry opportunities and contacts. Spearheaded since 2010 by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), Robotics Week 2014 kicked off this morning with the first annual Michigan Robotics Industry Executive Forum. More than 100 business leaders and technology innovators participated in the day-long event at the Maneuver Collaboration Center (MC2) on the General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) campus in Sterling Heights.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) challenged over 100 attendees to move beyond the ultra-technical and develop a unified message about the economic promise of advanced robotics. “Michigan can lead robotics technology,” Snyder stated, “Not just the politicians in Lansing, but everyone. Michigan can lead robotics technology in the United States.”
The governor’s speech set the stage for candid breakout sessions, in which expert panelists discussed business realities and challenges faced by the robotics industry in Michigan and across the country. “Robotics isn’t exactly a new field,” said Rick Jarman, President & CEO of NCMS, “in the sense that automation has been around for a long time. But that’s not the extent of robotics technology today. And the extent of the technology is only one challenge. We have to consider the business realities, manufacturability, not to mention regulations that may not exist yet. Robotics isn’t new as a concept, but it’s scaling to a whole new place today. Governor Snyder’s enthusiasm and support is indispensable for Michigan robotics – another key ingredient is collaboration. Industry, defense, academia, and government all need to work together.”
The breadth of topics under discussion at the Executive Forum mirrored the vast economic opportunities emphasized by Jarman and Snyder alike. Throughout the day, hour long panels covering automation, driverless vehicles, and dual-use technology transition sparked lively discussions on everything from autonomous vehicle legislation to convincing the state’s grade schoolers to explore engineering and manufacturing.
The event included demonstrations of robotics applications from Executive Forum participants, including a driverless car from the University Of Michigan School Of Engineering, autonomous cargo transport from Cybernet Systems, new aerial drone technology from SkySpecs, plus technologies from iTrack LLC and General Dynamics.
Phil Callihan, Director of Strategic Projects at NCMS and the event’s lead organizer, sees long-term potential for a day like this. “The Executive Forum is a chance for technology leaders to meet and chart a path forward,” he said. “Michigan has a great opportunity to be the global leader in autonomous vehicle technology.”
On Thursday, April 10, NCMS and the University of Michigan will host Michigan Robotics Day on U of M’s North Campus. This public event celebrates robotics technology throughout the state, featuring displays from Michigan innovators and presentations from thought leaders in the field. www.mirobotics.org