SMEs to trial exoskeletons in Scotland

An initiative is underway to promote exoskeletons to Scottish SMEs.

Led by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), the initiative invites Scottish SMEs to be involved in field trials, workshops or consultations.

The CSIC said: “We would welcome involvement from a range of people in construction roles – operatives to try our exoskeleton suites, health and safety professionals to seek views on safety, and owners and managers on the likely adoption of the exoskeletons.”

The CSIC’s role includes:

  • The identification of SME challenges in order to influence the design of field labs where next-generation exoskeletons improvements will be validated in end-user pilot sites.
  • Running informative workshops for SMEs where exoskeleton experts present and receive feedback on tools to support SMEs’ decision making in exoskeleton adoption.
  • Transnational benchmarking to accelerate industrial exoskeleton standardisation.

The CSIC’s work is part of a wider project, Exskallerate, that aims to bring exoskeletons to construction and manufacturing SMEs in the North Sea region. According to research conducted by the Exskallerate partners, exoskeleton use could alleviate 10%-40% of muscle peak loads for passive exoskeletons, and up to 80% for active.

Exoskeleton use is ripe for growth: in five to ten years, they may become a normal sight on construction sites, according to the Built Environment Futures report written by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University and produced by Robertson Group. The report said wearable technologies like exoskeletons have “the potential to improve efficiency, productivity and occupational health and safety in the construction industry.”

Exoskeleton use, both active and passive kinds, have been not yet been widely adopted. The report predicts that passive exoskeletons will be the most popular kind in construction due to their lower cost and not relying on a power source.

Alan Johnston, innovation manager at the CSIC, said: “Robertson’s Futures report gives insight into construction’s future and exoskeletons’ place within that future. If this report is the vision of the industry, then the Exskallerate project is the application of that vision specifically for exoskeletons.

“Exskallerate is the kind of project that we could look back on as helping change construction’s future landscape, changing what a construction sites looks like and how people feel when working on one.

“We are particularly interested in the innovative aspects of exoskeletons. It is exactly the kind of innovation we want to bring to SMEs, something forward-looking, sustainable and valuable in the long-term.”

More about exoskeletons:

Image: the passive exoskeleton from Hilti and Ottobock SE launched in 2020.

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