A “state-of-the-art” new centre will help Scottish businesses explore the potential of ‘cobots’ – the next generation of robots trained to work cooperatively and more closely with humans.

Smart Hub Lanarkshire – which helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector modernise, digitise and automate – has announced a programme of free online events.

The hub, which is a partnership between the University of Strathclyde, North Lanarkshire Council, and New College Lanarkshire (NCL), is home to a robotics and automation training facility with six-axis robotic arms with adaptive grippers, controllers and polyscope software.

It also boasts a dedicated space for SMEs to meet, learn and access business support and academic expertise.

It opened virtually in April and aims to physically open its doors at NCL’s Motherwell campus later this year, subject to Covid restrictions.

The centre is one of 12 projects to be awarded a share of £15.8m of funding from the Scottish Government through the ‘advancing manufacturing challenge fund’. The fund aims to advance the manufacturing capabilities of Scottish SMEs and lead to long-term transformational change.

The summer programme of events kicks off on 28 July with an online event that explores the use of collaborative robots – known as ‘Cobots’ – in the food and drink sector.

Aimed at businesses in the food and drink industry which are considering introducing automation, the event will be delivered by industry professionals in the field of robotics, who will answer questions and help attendees make informed investment decisions.

Delegates will also gain an insight into sector focused business support services available to them.

On 25 August, businesses in the life sciences sector can benefit from a similar event which will introduce them to the benefits of Cobot technology.

Engineering and fabrication businesses will have their turn on 24 September.

Professor Christopher Moore, principal at New College Lanarkshire said: “If you are considering introducing automated processes to your factory, and would welcome impartial industry insight and expertise to guide you, then these events will be invaluable. As well as answers to technical questions, the panel will also be able to help you with queries about funding and finances.”

Councillor Allan Graham, convener of the enterprise and growth committee at North Lanarkshire Council said: “The events offer an excellent opportunity for local manufacturing SMEs to learn about the benefits of new robotics technologies. As we start to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Smart Hub Lanarkshire will provide support for manufacturing businesses to help them use these innovative technologies to develop and grow for the future.”

North Lanarkshire currently has 575 manufacturing businesses – seven per cent of the total business base – employing 11,000 people and generating £2.179 billion in the local economy. The project recognises manufacturing as a key industry sector in North Lanarkshire’s economy.