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FAST-Lab. invites SMEs to develop and internationalise

Published on 17.1.2023
Tampere University
Kaksikätinen cobotti tekee kokoonpanotyötä tutkijan kanssa pöydän ääressä.
A dual arm cobot adapts its behavior to doctoral researcher Aitor Toichoa’s emotional and cognitive states while working in a collaborative assembly task. Toichoa works for the AI-PRISM Horizon Europe project. Photo: Leire Amezua.
The Future Automation Systems and Technologies Laboratory research group (FAST-Lab.) at Tampere University aims to promote industrial efficiency and productivity through automation and robotics. The research group is known for its numerous international projects, for which it has received millions of euros in funding from the European Commission. More domestic SMEs are encouraged to participate in the business cooperation.

FAST-Lab. focuses on factory automation, industrial informatics, industrial cyberphysical systems, robotics and artificial intelligence. The intelligent industrial environments developed in the lab focus on seamless human-machine collaboration, supported by the latest information and communication technologies.

To date, the FAST-Lab research group has been involved in more than 30 European research projects, where business cooperation is an integral part of the whole. There are nine ongoing projects, each with 9–38 partners. In addition to companies of all sizes, the project partners include research institutes, universities and associations, mainly from abroad (at the moment European, Japanese and Korean partners). 

Anne Korhonen, project manager coordinating FAST-Lab.’s project activities, also encourages Finnish companies to participate in EU projects.

“We would like to work more with domestic SMEs,” Korhonen says. “There are many benefits for partner companies, including access to the latest technologies and the support by a broad international research community. We are also looking for suitable students or recent graduates to work on projects for our partners,” she adds.

International contacts and new business opportunities

For companies, the EU support enables development and opens the door to international networks.

“This certainly allows companies to be at the forefront of development and research,” Korhonen mentions. “Among other things, we offer companies the opportunity to test their products in our laboratory. The cooperation contributes to boosting domestic exports by creating new international contacts and business,” Korhonen emphasises.

Internationality is a distinctive feature of the research community as the current research group of 24 members represents 13 different nationalities. In Korhonen’s view, language is not a decisive point, although there are only a few Finnish speakers in the group.

“If necessary, we can provide assistance to our Finnish business partners, for example, with translation and interpreting,” Korhonen says.

Human-robot collaboration makes industrial production more efficient

AI is also at the heart of the AI Powered human-centred Robot Interactions for Smart Manufacturing (AI-PRISM) project for industrial end-users. It will develop a human-centred AI-based robotic platform for stages of industrial production that are difficult to automate. These tasks often require speed and versatility.

The research group is developing an integrated and scalable ecosystem for industry, including assembly-specific solutions for semi-automated and collaborative manufacturing in flexible production processes.

“The user does not need programming skills, as the machines and robots are taught to make the necessary tasks themselves,” says Jose L. Martinez Lastra, Professor of Factory Automation, Director and Project Leader at FAST-Lab.

As part of the project, the AI-PRISM Open Access Pilots Alliance will be established. It offers students, self-employed entrepreneurs, SMEs and start-ups open access to a number of pilots around Europe where they can take advantage of the latest research results and equipment. FAST-Lab will serve as the core laboratory and trainer for the alliance. The aim is to facilitate future collaboration with European partners.

Innovative and sustainable furniture with help of cobots

One of the project’s business partners is the international furniture manufacturer Andreu World, which specialises in innovative, smart and sustainable seating and tables. The furniture is painted and sanded manually by skilled experts. Some of the pieces of furniture require very elaborate painting which is difficult to automate.

“By exploiting the development results at AI-PRISM, collaborative robots (cobots) learn to perform such tasks as picking, loading, unloading, painting and grinding. This allows human employees to focus on tasks that provide a higher added value for the company,” Professor Jose L. Martinez Lastra explains.

The company expects that the project will increase the productivity of the painting process by 20% and reduce quality defects by half.

The AI-PRISM project is funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe programme.

For up-to-date information on FAST-Lab’s research projects, please visit the website.

Further information

Jose L. Martinez Lastra
+358 40 779 4748
jose.martinezlastra [at]

Anne Korhonen
+358 50 300 2500
anne.m.korhonen [at]