The understanding and implementation of robots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) into the workplace is becoming an increasingly important aspect of economic growth in Europe. In order to take advantage of the technological advances SME Managers need the appropriate tools (including skills and competencies) to evaluate the value of automation and how to integrate robots and AI into the workforce.
SME Managers need to consider a range of strategic factors to integrate next-generation robots into their overall strategy. They need to re-think workflows – introducing autonomous units that can think and interact with a wider ecosystem requires a re-evaluation of workplace structure. They need to consider social factors – the introduction of robots requires an understanding of social context and how these they interact and communicate.
The specific aim of the Project will be to develop a series of training and support tools for SME Managers to enable them to assess the value of robots to their business development and sustainability and then effectively introduce them. These tools will include a best practice guide, self-assessment tools and an information exchange platform.
The overall impact of the Project will be an effective and viable way of managing the growing need for information and support of SME in the area of the introduction of new age technologies into their business.
Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Defined
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn. The term “artificial intelligence” means a programme which mimics human cognition. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define AI as a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation
Robotics has to do with the creation and building of robots, as well as computer programming. It is interdisciplinary, using mechanical, electrical and other kinds of engineering. Robots are sometimes used to do things that humans cannot such as going places that are too hot, small, dangerous or distant for humans. Some robots look like humans, but most just look like machines.
The project will need to include some desk based work initially to cover the field i.e. literature detailing examples of the introduction robotics/AI in SMEs in Europe.
The project will undertake a Europe-wide survey to determine the issues faced by SME Managers when considering the introduction of robots/AI into their organisation and make recommendations as to what strategies they need to adopt to gain the best advantage from their introduction – Robots/AI Introduction in SMEs: A European Analysis.
The results of the benchmarking and Europeans survey will be developed into a Best Practice Guide for SME Managers. The issues addressed will include the initial financial impact on the business, the impact on the existing workforce, the impact on productivity and identify good practice and other identified issues – Robots and AI Introduction: A Guide for SME Managers, incorporating Self-Assessment Tools.
An Information Exchange Platform will be developed to help SME Managers to discuss issues of interest with other SMEs and where the Analysis Review Report, interactive self-assessment tools, Best Practice Guide will reside.
The consortium implementing the ROB-SME project includes the following partners:
EU15 LIMITED Project Promoter (United Kingdom)
EU15 Limited is a training and software development company that specialises in eLearning solutions for both the public and private sectors. With the increasing importance and challenges facing training for “New Age Technologies” EU15 has a keen interest in working with new Partners to enhance and develop new training methodologies to enhance the skills of a new generation that will need such skills when seeking employment in the future. EU15 Ltd has already led and managed an EU project related to the development of a basic training course for building robots and the use of 3D printing (ROTENA Project www.rotena.eu)
CEPROF – CENTROS ESCOLARES DE ENSINO PROFISSIONAL LDA (Portugal)
CEPROF has great experience in the relevant areas to this project. In 2014 they organized a Robotics competition for VET schools, which had the participation of teams from South America, Europe and Asia www.robotica2014.espe.pt. The way the Technological trainings is taught is by doing small classroom projects. These can either be the development and the programming of a Robot to fulfil certain tasks, or the development of small gadgets which have won prizes in national school competitions.
Unseen Pro Ltd. (Bulgaria) Unseen Pro is a company focused on the development of high quality web, mobile and desktop soﬅware solutions. Unseen Pro has been a member of the Varna Economic Development Agency since 2009 and cooperates with other agency members at regional and national levels. The company has extensive experience in software design and implementation such as: on-line training systems for non-formal education for adults i.e. students, SMEs managers, entrepreneurs, people with disabilities, etc. (on-line assessment tools and audio and video processing software).
SLOVAK BUSINESS AGENCY (Slovakia)
For more than 20 years the Slovak Business Agency has been supporting development and growth of Slovak SMEs to improve their competitiveness at the local, regional, national levels, on the EU market and globally. The non-profit seeking organization is a unique platform of the public and private sector initiated by the European Union and the Slovak Government.
4Civility Institute, Ireland Limited (Ireland)
The principals of The 4Civility Institute have been creating specialized training modules for over 25 years. They have created modules for over 120 colleges and universities worldwide, as well as for more than 15 NGOs, and for the European Commission through various grant projects and contracts. Two of the principals are PhD researchers, professors, and scholars. 4Civility has a special interest in AI and Robotics and believes that it is important to begin to engage SMEs in understanding how to prepare for the conflicts that the stress of AI and Robotics will bring to the workplace and have been undertaking self-funded research into this topic.