Between 21 and 23 March, Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana, the Green capital of Europe 2016, will host the seventh edition of the European Robotics Forum (ERF2016).
The event will take place under the title Robotics for Europeans and will be attended by experts from entire Europe. Slovenia has been selected to host the European Robotics Forum 2016 on the grounds of its committed involvement in the international research area and references of Slovenian scientists. Organised by euRobotics, a Brussels-based international non-profit association for all stakeholders in the European robotics sector, the event is the most influential meeting of the European robotics community with over 500 participants from industry, business, academia, and relevant European policy makers.
"The European Robotics Forum 2016 (ERF2016) will be the most important European networking event, this year held in Slovenia. Top European experts will present high-level strategies and their implementation as to maximize the benefits of robotics for economy and society, and to make sure that Europe stays number one in the next industrial revolution. A key approach is to link national and regional initiatives under a European "umbrella", such as the "Digitising European Industry" proposed by the European Commission. Representatives of international organisations will showcase EU- funded projects in the context of the Public-Private Partnership in Robotics called SPARC, in which the European Commission has engaged with euRobotics, the organiser of ERF. The approach fits well within the "smart specialisation" of regions strategy which is the key element by both the Committee of Regions and the European Structural and Investment Funds, says Reinhard Lafrenz, Secretary General of euRobotics.
On a global scale, the application of robotics is still largely confined to industry, where robots can replace humans in executing heavy, monotonous and dangerous tasks that often take place in inappropriate and unhealthy environment. According to the latest estimates of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), industrial robot sales will grow 15% on average each year until 2018. Slovenia too is regarded a well-automated country and its application of robotics in car industry makes it comparable to other European countries. In 2013, there was an average of 82 industrial robots per 10,000 persons employed in European production industry and 90 in Slovenia.
Prof. Marko Munih, Head of the Laboratory of Robotics (Robolab) at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana – a co-partner with the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) and the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) in organising the European Robotics Forum 2016 – stresses that robotisation leads to economic growth. And even though robots can work without interruption, thus importantly contributing to greater competitiveness, lucrativeness and consequently economic growth, many fear that they will replace people and reduce the number of jobs. This opinion is shared by 70 percent of Europeans and 73 percent of Slovenes, according to the Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2015 with nearly 28,000 EU citizens. But Prof. Munih says: "The fear of job losses is completely ungrounded. The latest research shows that robotisation creates new, yet different profiles of jobs that envisage the cooperation between man and the robot."