The International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) is the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s flagship conference. Every year, the world’s leading roboticists, technologists, and innovators come together at this conference to discuss the industry’s current trajectory, latest accomplishments, and how IEEE has supported research and development in the field of robotics and automation. Speakers at the conference spoke broadly of innovations in the robotics industry, but they also focused their discussions on their own innovations and solutions in order to give a more personal and illustrative background to their sessions.
This year, entrepreneurship was a key theme in the conference. I-Ming Chen, the ICRA General Chair and a member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, explained that entrepreneurship and innovation were explored in three ways at the conference this year:
- a Government Forum which included sessions on governmental investment in national robotics programs, as well as government-industry roles in driving growth and innovation
- an Industry Forum in which major robotics industry players discussed their business strategies, particularly pertaining to the startup world
- a Robotics Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (RIE) in which companies participated in a pitch competition and had the opportunity to network with each other in an open, communicative setting
The RIE Forum in particular was hyper-focused on entrepreneurship and supporting technically focused founders. It even included a Start-Up Corner, where contestants of the pitch competition were given the chance to network and collaborate with other entrepreneurs and startup companies attending the conference.
I-Ming Chen went on to explain that the RIE forum also included several sessions, with topics ranging from healthcare to social robots. Each session included two to three speakers, as well as a number of start-up companies who gave pitch presentations on their solutions. A number of investors and venture capitalists (VCs) judged each pitch.
Involving investors and VCs was something “From my own experience,” I-Ming said, “many investors or VCs do not understand robotics and automation even though it is a very hot topic worldwide. Bringing them to ICRA…[gave] them a quick crash course to understand robotics.”
He continued, “We tried to balance the needs and interests of all parties involved in the entrepreneurship and start-up processes in RIE forum – the team, the technology and the funding.”
By the end of the conference, I-Ming Chen and the rest of the ICRA committee hoped that attendees would be able to walk away with new appreciation for the importance of robotic technology, and how this technology can be leveraged to solve real-world problems. As well as this, they hoped that attendees would have a deeper understanding of how they can contribute toward solving these problems, by becoming innovators and entrepreneurs themselves.
You can learn more about ICRA and the Robotic Entrepreneurship and Innovation Forum here.