Mechanical engineering, electronics and computer science are all big disciplines that need to work together in order to complete most real world projects. Since mastering all of them in a reasonable amount of time is impossible, collaboration between experts is needed. In addition, individually working on every feature of a project is likely to result in the reinvention of the wheel, where the researcher spends time working on a technique that has previously been created by someone else.
In South Africa, the concern of protecting intellectual property makes researchers reluctant to share the development of their work with colleagues. Additionally, patents are costly and need to be renewed on a yearly basis, which discourages collaboration and results in a delay with research publications. There is little incentive for undergraduate students to consider a research career due to limited funding.
The proposed satellite robotic centers should ideally consist of: (1) The development section is an interdisciplinary area in which students have the opportunity to talk about individual projects, share problems and offer possible solutions. (2) The testing section which is an open space to create different scenarios that the robots are tested in. (3) The business development section in which students get a chance to apply for grants and obtain an income with the development of a business.
Even if the center is at the proposal stage for the moment, partnering institutions will have exchange programs allowing students to contribute to each other’s work. To communicate with institutions abroad, each institution could have access to the same equipment and sensors, and thus collaborate on software developed for the test platform.
There are several advantages to the Robotics Center of South Africa. Industries and government programs interested in investing in a given area of research will only have to consult the Center. Better collaboration between institutions will also lead to joint and more valuable publications and funding can be distributed between different projects that are related to each other. Lastly, business startups incubated at the center will receive as an incentive, assistance in applying for government funding.