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The Swiss Cobotics Competence Center to propel the Swiss industry towards collaborative robotics


8 June 2023

Marking a new chapter in the advancement of robotics, the Swiss Cobotics Competence Center (S3C) was inaugurated. Located within the premises of the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne (SIPBB), the center stands as an exemplary hub for knowledge and demonstration in the realm of cutting-edge collaborative robotics, also known as cobotics.

Western Switzerland has recently heralded a new age of advanced robotics as the Swiss Cobotics Competence Center (S3C) opened its doors in Biel (canton of Bern), nested within the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne (SIPBB). The center, a unique platform for expertise and demonstration of cutting-edge collaborative robotics (or cobotics), represents a significant stride towards embedding robots more closely and flexibly in our everyday work.

While the concept of robotic helpers has the potential to bolster the competitive standing of the Swiss manufacturing industry, collaborative robots are not yet commonplace in Swiss factories despite consistent technological advances. The S3C aims to bridge this discrepancy between the emerging technological prowess and the industry’s reality, facilitating a wider application of cobotics across industrial sectors.

At its core, the S3C functions as a repository for cobotic knowledge and a testbed for collaborative robotics. It draws strength from the support of the Swiss Smart Factory, the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH), EPFL, ETH Zurich, as well as 14 other academic partners and more than 18 industry partners, including start-ups such as Aica and VU Engineering, alongside SMEs and larger corporations like Siemens. This melting pot of intellect and resources has been structured into a public-private partnership, marking a significant collaboration between academia and industry.

The center’s primary focus areas include precision and watchmaking industry, machine tool industry, medical technology, and laboratory automation, aiming to serve as the Swiss industry’s principal contact point for cobotic endeavors. The S3C presents Cobotic Base Cells (CBCs), a suite of cobotic test and demonstration platforms representing typical industrial tasks, to assist the industry with everything from testing and training to implementation and validation of cobotic solutions.

A critical element in stimulating innovation and expediting knowledge transfer

Established as a non-profit organization in November 2022, the S3C today boasts over 30 members from industry and research. The center has been recognized as a research institution of national importance and funded under the “Advanced Manufacturing Technology Transfer Centers” (AM-TTC) initiative for 2022-2024 by the ETH Board and the Federal Department for Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER).

As a member of the AM-TTC Alliance, the S3C is part of the federal action plan for digitalization in the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). It is set to become a critical element in the nationwide effort to stimulate innovation and expedite knowledge transfer, leading Swiss industry into a new era of collaboration with robotics. With its foundation, the S3C aspires to become the national hub for the development and testing of next-generation cobotic solutions, promising to reinvent the concept of human-centric design in industrial applications.