The British arm of the Swedish firm Skanska has won a £709,000 grant to develop robots for construction.

Innovate UK, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have forwarded the money to Skanska UK as part of their collaborative research and development (R&D) programme.

The firm is leading a research consortium that has been working to develop robotic units to facilitate both on-site and off-site construction.

The project, titled Flexible Robotic Assembly Modules for the Built Environment (FRAMBE), is likely to start in the fourth quarter of the year, and will seek automation opportunities for developing robotic applications. It is in-line with Skanska’s strategy to increase productivity in the construction business.

"This approach…is bringing to construction the levels of quality and cost reduction experienced sectors such as automotive."

The units are expected to serve cutting, drilling and fixing purposes when deployed on-site, or in ‘flying factories’.

‘Flying factories represent a system of off-site, nearby manufacturing, where structures are built under controlled conditions. By removing the potential effects of bad weather conditions and other on-site hazards, assembly can be greatly accelerated.

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Skanska Innovation head Sam Stacey said: "Robotics in construction is an unknown field and provides great opportunities.

"A robot to drill and fix to the underside of slabs, for example, would eliminate a lot of work at height in dusty, noisy environments."

In addition to bringing in accuracy and speed, the use of robotics for construction also offers advantages in safety and sustainability.

The Building Research Establishment, ABB Robotics, Tekla UK, Exelin, and the University of Reading will collaborate with Skanska on the project.

"This approach, of collaboration with experts from a range of industries, is bringing to construction the levels of quality and cost reduction experienced sectors such as automotive," Stacey added.

"Our relationship with ABB has been established through the 3D concrete printing project and, in Sweden, with robot solutions for civil works; Exelin is a partner on flying factories."