A new organization, REM-C, has been established to serve the engineering and academic communities. We asked the group’s president, Kirk Barker, for some details.

What is REM-C?

The Roboticists, Engineers & Manufacturers Consortium is a nonprofit organization comprised of leading manufacturers and universities dedicated to the advancement of robotic technology. The collective purpose of REM-C is to inspire innovation, identify technical challenges, and provide engineered solutions to the robotic community.

When was it founded?

The consortium was introduced at the November 2013 RoboBusiness conference, but the concept and initial work actually date to early 2011. In the interim, we hired a management firm, established 501(c)3 status, and spent a great deal of time and energy identifying colleges and universities within the U. S. that offer a dedicated robotics curriculum. There was also considerable effort placed on identifying a select group of sponsoring companies, with a collective vision, to serve as founding members and initially fund the project.

Who is involved?

The four founding sponsor companies are Fischer Connectors, Harmonic Drive, igus, and maxon precision motors. Each manufacturer’s products are critical components in a variety of robotic applications. Now that sufficient funds are available, a select group of universities have been approached regarding membership. It’s free to those with qualified programs.

For companies, three sponsorship levels range from $4,500 to $9,500. We are planning for an increase of 7 to 10 new sponsors in 2014 and an additional 10 to 15 sponsors in 2015. To date, we have identified over 125 robotics programs in the U. S. and our target is to enroll 15 to 20 in 2014 and potentially 50 to 75 by the end of 2015.

There are lots of technical and engineering organizations. Why do we need another?

The engineering community has done a wonderful job in recognizing education and supporting programs like FIRST and many STEM-related initiatives. If you take a close look at the cost of tuition and consider the financial requirements to fund an effective university engineering department, one can see that there is seldom enough money. REM-C’s primary purpose is to help fund member university robotic programs, particularly at the graduate and doctoral levels.

One avenue is discount pricing or free product samples to member schools working on qualified projects. Also, REM-C is a nonprofit organization. The bulk of our funds will be available for annual distribution to university members in the form of grants, awards, and scholarships.

Are there other goals?

Ideally, the REM-C Web site will become an effective and convenient communications network with an audience of informed roboticists. It was developed with the thought of being highly useful to anyone with robotics and engineering-related questions, who needs technical literature and support, or who is searching for products related to robotics.

The Web site provides an FAQ section and an “ask the expert” forum for specific technical questions. The site will also provide a comprehensive library of white papers and technical reports, a video section commissioned for eLearning and product demos, and hyperlinks to each sponsor’s dedicated technical database. It will also give the casual visitor an inside look at universities’ robotics projects and programs and a calendar of robot-related events.

Internships and employment opportunities will also be posted on the Web site on a case-by-case basis. Our sponsors have a great deal of time and energy invested in understanding and sustaining a presence in the emerging robotics landscape. The expanse and quality of students who will comprise the membership make for ideal employment candidates.

How else do companies benefit?

To name a few, membership in REM-C helps our sponsors:

  • Stay current with the latest trends and advancements at the research level, keep abreast of important events, and identify opportunities for new-product development and beta sites for testing.
  • Network with a select group of leading manufacturers and educators with a common interest in robotics.
  • Introduce products and build brand familiarity/loyalty at a high level, and gain product exposure inside hard-to-reach organizations like NIH, NSF, DoE, DARPA, and DoD.
  • Foster goodwill in support of our future engineers.

What kind of reaction are you getting to REM-C?

The response has been nothing but positive from both groups of potential sponsors and members. We are confident that we will comfortably meet our goals for additional members and sponsors for 2014 and 2015.