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Industrial PhD: "Multimodal Tele-Presence for remote operation of industrial robot systems"
A collaboration between BRL, UK and PPM AS, Norway

Job Overview

This is an exciting opportunity to undertake fundamental research in an industrially grounded real-world setting in order to make industrial robots easier to re-programme. The candidate must, therefore, be interested in pursuing PhD level research at the challenging interface between industrial problems and academic solutions.

A crucial part of the Western European income-base has, and continues to be, created in the context of Small and Medium sized Enterprise (SME) manufacturing. These SMEs are currently in a very challenging situation. On one hand, they are small, flexible and have low overhead costs compared to bigger enterprises. On the other hand, they tend to depend on manual work force, which links their financial competitiveness strongly with wage level, which is significantly higher in Western Europe compared to Eastern Europe and Asia. However, SMEs normally have limited investment funds and competence in robotics and automation, which traditionally has slowed down the rate of uptake in industrial robots.

This situation is beginning to change. Due to the increasing requirements attached to productivity and EHS (Environment, Health and Safety), SMEs are now exposed to ever increasing pressure to invest in industrial robot systems to reduce the wage costs. The factors above have generated a strong internal tension.

In order to help ease this situation, this programme of study will focus on the development of new technology to make the industrial robot easy to program and use, so that even small companies with limited resources and knowledge about robot technology can embrace it. The core of this new robot technology will be efficient utilisation of cognitive multimodal communication, so as to transfer information from the robot system to the human operator in an immersive manner. By these intuitive and efficient means, easy setup and changeover will be achieved and, thereby, cost efficient one-of-a-kind production will become a reality for SMEs.

During the project, an operational advanced robot laboratory will be developed, with facilities for multimodal communication between the robot and the operator. The technology will be generic, but with specialisation for a fast growing sector, i.e., the robot tasks of grinding and deburring.

The programme of study has been organised in collaboration between the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (University of the West of England Bristol, UK) and the high technology, research based industrial robot system integrator, PPM AS in Trondheim, the “Capital of Technology” and the third biggest city in Norway. PPM AS is the project leader.

The candidate will stay altogether for two years at PPM AS in Trondheim Norway and one year at the BRL in Bristol UK. This can be organised in any way that suits an efficient PhD study for the successful candidate, but it is likely to consist of significant blocks of study at each location.

This will be a Norwegian salaried position at PPM AS linked with full-time registration for a PhD programme at the UWE, Bristol. The candidate will, therefore, be formally employed by PPM AS and have conditions (insurance etc.) according to the Norwegian Law, during the entire study.

Salary will be negotiable for a given successful applicant, but in the region 40K EUR gross, subject to the Norwegian tax of approximately 35%. In addition, there is support for travel between the two study locations and to other events, such as conferences.

The applicant must satisfy the academic and operational requirement laid out below.

  • Possesses an MSc in robotics, cybernetics, mechatronics, production engineering, or similar
  • Qualified to be a PhD student at the University of the West of England, Bristol
  • Interested in multi-disciplinary research and development
  • Enjoys laboratory oriented work including development and testing
  • Able to communicate in English as the working language

The objectives of the project are:

  • Educate an Industrial PhD student in the new methodology and theory for cognitive, multimodal communication related to industrial robot systems.
  • Develop and test new technology for multimodal human-robot communication.
  • Develop a methodology to apply the technology above in an efficient manner.
  • Develop intuitive, user-friendly industrial robot technology, so as to significantly lower the threshold to use of industrial robots in SMEs.

Application Instructions

In the first instance, we encourage informal contact, so please write a letter briefly explaining why you are interested in, and appropriate for, taking up this opportunity, then send this and your current CV to the following email addresses with the subject line being “Industrial PhD: Multimodal Tele-Presence”. Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to address these to one or both of the same email addresses.

Salary Band
Working Pattern
Full Time,
37 hours per week
Closing Date
Open Ended
Anticipated Interview Date
To Be Confirmed
 Type of Post/Duration
24 Months at PPM AS
12 Months at BRL
Bristol Robotics Laboratory
PPM AS in Trondheim
Further Details
For details, including how to apply send an email to: Trygve Thomessen and Tony Pipe. Subject line should read: “Industrial PhD: Multimodal Tele-Presence”

Page last updated 11 December 2015