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Unit of Excellence María de Maeztu

Total activity: 131
Type of activity
Competitive project
Funding entity
Funding entity code
2.000.000,00 €
Start date
End date
The Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (IRI), www.iri.upc.edu, is a Joint University Research Institute participated by the Spanish Council for
Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC) that conducts basic and applied research in human-centered robotics and
automatic control. The institute, founded in 1995, is a key player in the Spanish robotics and automatic control scenes, and a valued participant in a
large number of international collaborations.
As of September 2016, the scientific personnel at IRI included 19 full time researchers and faculty members, 12 postdocs and visiting professors, 29
PhD students, and 16 contract support personnel. Support to the research activities is provided by an administrative team with a staff of 6 people, and a
computer service with 3 members.
Despite being a small center, we are very active and prolific. IRIs yearly throughput of scientific articles has steadily increased in the last decade, nearly
tripling its volume from 40 publications in 2005 to 102 in 2015. It is not just quantity but also the highest possible quality. IRIs researchers publish their
results at the highest-ranked journals and conferences in their fields of expertise. In the period 2012-2015, our researchers published, amongst other
highly ranked papers, at least 90 journals in the first ISI JCR quartile (38 in the first ISI JCR decile); most of them in the robotics, automatic control,
computer science and artificial intelligence disciplines. We can unquestionably state that IRI can be qualified as the best robotics research center in
Spain, with the largest volume of publications in the top journals and conferences from our research areas (see the benchmark analysis of section 7.1
of Annex 1), and with an uncontestable presence in the European research scene.
The center has worked hard in recent years to develop this position at the European scale. Our researchers are well known abroad with a proven
record of national and European project leadership, for their participation in research policy making forums, for continued participation as organizers of
large-scale international scientific events, with editorial duties for the most important peer reviewed journals and conferences in our areas, or with
evaluator duties for many international panels. With regards to project participation, in the period 2012-2016 we coordinated 2 European Projects, and
participated as partners in 15 more from FP7 and H2020, and coordinated 16 National Projects and many other regional initiatives. In addition, during
this period, 19 technology transfer projects were carried out and 3 patent applications were submitted. All this has meant a total amount of 5.74 million
euros of competitive research funds secured in the period.
This budget is complemented with a basal allocation of resources from our parent institutions of 1.43 million euros/year (civil servant salaries), totaling a
yearly budget of nearly 3 million euros. It stands out that, our non-basal funds account for about 50% of the whole budget of the center, which is a
remarkable indicator of our capacity to attract highly competitive funds to perform good quality of research (see Section 7.6 of Annex 1).
The Institute's research activities are organized in four research lines:
- Kinematics and Robot Design
- Mobile Robotics and Intelligent Systems
- Perception and Manipulation
- Automatic Control.
The three first lines tackle various aspects of robotics research, including indoor and outdoor human-centered human-safe robotics systems, and the design and construction of novel parallel mechanisms. The fourth line is focused on control systems design and implementation,
aimed principally at the improvement of energy systems efficiency, fuel cells performance and environmental resources management.
A few examples of our international leadership include the work of the Mobile Robotics group on service robotics. Its leader Alberto Sanfeliu
coordinated the FP6 project URUS to create robots that interact with people in urban pedestrian areas, and also coordinated the EU research atelier
NRS for Network Robot Systems. Alberto Sanfeliu had become internationally known for his work on social robotics, and Juan Andrade for his work in
the theoretical aspects of the simultaneous localization and mapping problem. More recently, the group is participating in European projects related to
aerial manipulation FP7 ARCAS (www.arcas-project.eu) and H2020 AEROARMS (www.aeroarms-project.eu), and developed, along with its partners, a
series of first-ever aerial manipulators able to autonomously assemble structures and carry loads to locations impaired to humans. Another example of
its current international leadership are its contributions, together with Volvo Trucks and TNO, on the autonomous driving of trucks and other vehicles for
the transportation of cargo containers in ports and terminals, FP7 CARGO-Ants (www.cargo-ants.eu) and H2020 LOGIMATIC (www.logimaticproject.
eu). With these EU projects, the group has initiated a line of research on autonomous driving which has catapulted opportunities in the
automotive sector.
IRIs perception and manipulation group has also reached a number of feats that have made it gain international reputation. Its leader Carme Torras is
known for her work at the frontier of robotics and artificial intelligence, specifically on planning and learning algorithms, and the application of neural
networks to solve robotics and computer vision problems. She led the contribution of IRI on a number of related EU projects. Of these, the most recent
include two projects on the formalization of the perception-action complexes in robotics and their relation to the teaching of manipulation skills to a
robot, FP7 IntellAct, and one on the use of computer vision and robotics technologies for the phenotyping of plants, FP7 GARNICS (www.garnics.eu).
Her expertise in neural networks ties with that of Francesc Moreno in computer vision, and together they are applying the new deep learning paradigm
of convolutional neural networks to the solution of challenging computer vision and natural language processing problems. Francesc led one national
and one EU CHIST-ERA project VISEN (www.chistera.eu/projects/visen) in this topic. We are coordinating another CHIST-ERA project I-DRESS
(www.i-dress-project.eu) aimed at teaching a robot perceptual and manipulation skills to aid a human in challenging tasks, such as getting dressed,
participate in a MSCA ITN called SOCRATES (www.socrates-project.eu)on social cognitive robot agents and in H2020 IMAGINE, a new project on
enabling robots how to address the largescale recycling of electromechanical devices.
The kinematics and robot design group performs research on the design, construction, and analysis of complex mechanisms and structures, including
parallel manipulators, multifinger hands, or reconfigurable mechanisms. Its leader Josep Maria Porta is internationally known for his contributions in
motion planning, and together with Lluís Ros, for the development of the Cuik Suite (www.iri.upc.edu/cuik), a computer software tool for the motion
analysis of general closed-chain multi-body systems. This software tool has found applications not only to solve a myriad of robotics problems (direct
and inverse kinematics, closed-chain motion planning, singularity analysis, workspace determination, among others), but also in structural biology for
the conformational analysis of proteins and other biomolecules. The previous leader of this group, and also former IRIs director, Federico Thomas, is
an international expert on the geometry and kinematics of multi-body systems.
The automatic control group has a history of contributions in the modeling and control of large scale systems. Maria Serra leads the groups efforts on
the analysis and development of modelling and control for fuel cell systems and other energy generation technologies. In recent years, the group has
participated in three European projects aimed at the modeling and control of PEM fuel cells, FP7 PUMAMIND (www.pumamind.eu). The new H2020
project INN-BALANCE that will study the deployment of fuel cells systems in real cars will start at the end of this year. Vicenç Puig, Gabriela Cembrano
and Carlos Ocampo also have significant international participation in projects related to the real-time monitoring and control of drinking water
networks, FP7 EFFINET (www.effinet.eu), and sewage networks including the treatment plants, LIFE EFFIDRAIN (www.life-effidrain.eu) . Because of
their experience in projects in the water sector, IRI collaborates with the scientific direction of CETAQUA, a joint technology center between CSIC,
UPC, the water company Aigües de Barcelona (Suez Group), and with nodes in Galicia, Andalusia and South America.
The increasing penetration of service robots in everyday human life and the growth of worldwide awareness and new EU regulations on environmental
resource use, constitute a source for technology transfer. Hence, aside from basic research, the institute is also delivering technology solutions to the
industrial sector. To name a few, the autonomous recovery of PET plastic in waste recycling plants, the calibration of multicamera systems for the
production of visual content, AI tools applied to robotized bread handling, on energy routing software, and for the integral water cycle management, or
the solutions on autonomous driving for the automotive sector.
The fact of being a Joint University Institute located within the UPC campus provides an extra advantage concerning teaching activities. IRIs
researchers participate actively in several UPC graduate programs and have adequate access to PhD students. Moreover, IRIs researchers actively
participate and collaborate with other UPC research groups.


Scientific and technological production

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