Brisbane flexes its muscles as robotics powerhouse

Brisbane has reinforced its reputation as a powerhouse in the robotics field, welcoming 3,000 of the world’s leading experts to the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

It was the first time the international event, held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre 21-25 May 2018, has taken place in the Southern Hemisphere. The six-day event exceeded expectations with record delegate numbers and papers submitted, delivering an estimated $10.5 million into the Queensland economy.

Queensland Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said: “Being the first city in Australia to host the world’s peak robotics and automation conference is recognition of the fact that Brisbane is leading the way when it comes to innovation. This is thanks to our record investment and great work being done by local innovators and academics.”

Queensland’s capital has emerged as the robotics hub of Australia through a series of initiatives. Robotics R&D has been underway in Brisbane for more than two decades, with institutions such as CSIRO’s Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies (QCAT), The University of Queensland (UQ) and QUT (Queensland University of Technology) specialising in areas including field robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, and wireless sensor network technology for use in mining, agriculture and the environment.

In 2014 the Australian Government invested in The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, headquartered at QUT in Brisbane. This centre of excellence has led to the development of a number of new technologies, including robots for healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure inspection.

QUT is also home to the world’s first Robot Academy platform, offering free access to a range of educational resources and pioneering the world’s first Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in robotics, attracting more than 60,000 students from 170 countries.

The robotics ecosystem in Brisbane is also strong, incorporating international companies like Blue Ocean Robotics, Softbank subsidiary STA Solutions, and Japan’s TerraDrone; and homegrown companies like V-TOL Aerospace, Mawson Robotics, Skyborne Technologies, Freelance Robotics, and COLETEK Robotics.

These are supported by a vibrant start-up culture and maker community. Australia’s first dedicated robotics start-up accelerator was created by QUT bluebox in partnership with the Queensland Government. The new Arc Hardware Incubator is an advanced prototyping and manufacturing space focused on assisting hardware startups.

These innovative institutions are underpinned by a broad base of STEM excellence, with the Queensland Government making coding mandatory in the high school curriculum and also creating a Centre of Excellence in Automation and Robotics at Alexandra Hills State High School. Local councils and libraries also deliver the Advance Queensland STEM-I-AM coding and robotics grants program, designed to encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to pursue knowledge in the sector.

Meetings and events have also helped the robotics community in Brisbane to grow: The Brisbane Robotics Interest Group MeetUp and Artificial Intelligence MeetUp ensure opportunities for the free-flow exchange of ideas. Brisbane was also host to the first-ever World of Drones Congress in August 2017, organised by 2015 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year, Dr Catherine Ball. That event followed the one-day Robotronica showcase, a free robotics and technology spectacular hosted by QUT that took place as part of National Science Week.

ICRA Conference Program Chair, Professor Peter Corke, Director of the Centre for Robotic Vision said he hoped the Conference would cement people’s vision of the future of robotics in Australia and put Brisbane and Australia on the map for the technology revolution. He cites a number of reasons for the success of the event: “Brisbane’s strong reputation in robotics internationally, the acceleration of the technology worldwide, the appeal of Australia to the international community and the innovative approach we have taken for the conference program.”

(via BCEC, ChooseBrisbane,

Featured image: Brisbane is a leader in drone technology applications (photo: ChooseBrisbane)