Building a Safer, Smarter Tomorrow – Secretary Chloe Smith’s Address on Robotics

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TL;DR Breakdown

  • Autonomous vehicles on public roads and drone superhighways – Secretary Chloe Smith highlighted groundbreaking achievements in robotics and automation at the conference.
  • How robotics can improve the lives of the elderly and enhance safety and productivity in various industries.
  • Effective regulation and collaboration were emphasized as key factors in harnessing the full potential of robotics and automation while ensuring safety and public confidence.

The International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in London on May 30, 2023, welcomed participants from across the globe to explore the remarkable advancements and potential of robotics and automation. The opening speech by Chloe Smith, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, highlighted the significant strides made in the field and emphasized the need for continued innovation and responsible regulation. This article aims to delve into the key points raised during the speech and their relevance to the ongoing conference.

The rise of universal autonomy and aerial superhighways

Secretary Chloe Smith kicked off her speech by acknowledging the groundbreaking achievement of Oxbotica, a British spinout that successfully tested a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads in Oxford. This feat marked a milestone in the pursuit of “universal autonomy,” where any vehicle, regardless of size or location, can operate safely and sustainably without human intervention. This achievement underscores the remarkable progress made in autonomous technology and its potential to revolutionize transportation systems worldwide.

The discussion then shifted to Project Skyway, an ambitious initiative supported by the £125 million Future Flight Program. This project aims to build the world’s largest drone “superhighway,” connecting the airspace above British towns and cities. The envisioned aerial network will facilitate efficient drone operations for various purposes, including delivery services, inspection tasks, and emergency response. The implementation of such a system has the potential to reshape logistics and improve connectivity, ensuring the safe and seamless integration of drones into our daily lives.

Leveraging robotics for the betterment of society

Secretary Smith highlighted the critical role robotics and automation can play in addressing societal challenges. She emphasized the importance of using these technologies to support caregivers in enhancing the lives of elderly individuals, as well as applying automation to maintain offshore wind turbines. By deploying robots in environments that are dangerous, monotonous, or difficult for humans, we can improve safety, productivity, and quality of life.

The speech cited notable examples of British companies making significant contributions in this realm. Sees.ai, a startup granted permission to utilize drones for power line inspections beyond the visual line of sight, exemplifies the potential for drones to replace helicopters and planes in dangerous tasks. CMR Surgical, another British firm, utilizes robotics to enhance the safety, accuracy, and repeatability of keyhole surgeries, revolutionizing patient care and reducing waiting times. These success stories serve as an inspiration and demonstrate how technology can positively impact lives globally.

The role of innovation, regulation, and collaboration

Secretary Smith emphasized the need for continued innovation to address the challenges of the future. With the net-zero transition and an aging society at the forefront, bold and transformative approaches are required. The British entrepreneurial spirit, showcased by the pioneers at the conference, is crucial in driving progress and finding innovative solutions to complex problems.

However, to fully unlock the potential of robotics and automation, effective regulation is paramount. The speech stressed the importance of getting the balance right between fostering innovation and ensuring responsible deployment. Secretary Smith highlighted ongoing efforts to establish the necessary regulatory frameworks in collaboration with industry leaders and academia. The aim is to instill public confidence in the safe and ethical use of these technologies while safeguarding against potential risks.

The UK’s unique position and global collaboration

The Secretary of State highlighted the UK’s position as a science and technology superpower and its commitment to leveraging this status for the benefit of the British people. The government’s agile approach to AI governance, as outlined in the recent White Paper, reflects a determination to establish effective regulations and build public trust. The collaborative efforts between the government, industry, and academia were emphasized as the key to success, ensuring a holistic approach to addressing challenges related to skills, investment, and regulation.


The conference serves as a platform for experts, innovators, and stakeholders from around the world to share knowledge, collaborate, and shape the trajectory of robotics and automation. As the conference progresses, participants will undoubtedly be inspired by the possibilities that lie ahead and work together to pave the way for a future where robotics and automation enhance our lives, drive economic growth, and tackle the challenges of our time.

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