From natural to neural network, Lego scene by Ferguson & Wilkins

Press release: Research showcase… from the natural to the neural network

To keep ecobuild visitors at the forefront of innovations and opportunities in the built environment, this research showcase will give direct access to leading researchers in robotics as well as featuring projects inspired by nature.

The ARCC knowledge exchange network has coordinated this feature to give ecobuild visitors a better understanding of the current research and development investments across UK universities that are tackling issues to make our built environment more sustainable, safer, healthier and adapted to our changing climate.

Communications Manager Tanya Wilkins encourages ecobuild visitors to visit the showcase:

We are really pleased to bring this research showcase directly to ecobuild. There will be no academic journal articles here, instead visitors will have the chance to see the latest products, processes, and technology innovations from leading universities, as well as the opportunity to speak directly to the researchers.

As we move towards an increasingly multidisciplinary approach to environmental design that incorporates technology and living forms, we have the ability to refine not only building design, but the entire built environment.  This feature showcases what is possible when we bring together natural and engineering solutions for the built environment.

The UK-Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network have helped to make this feature happen, bringing with them research from their network membership:

Aerial Robotics Laboratory, Imperial College London

AquaMav: In nature, several animals have evolved design solutions that enable them to successfully transition between water and air, and move in both media. Researchers have reviewed the biological literature on these multi-modal animals and abstracted their underlying design principles with the aim of building a robotic equivalent, the Aquatic Micro Air Vehicle.

Robotics@Leeds, University of Leeds

In conjunction with UCL, University of Birmingham and University of Southampton, Robotics@Leeds is developing robots for self-repairing cities. This project aims to tackle the Grand Challenge of Zero disruption from street works in UK cities by 2050 by developing robots that will identify, diagnose and repair street-works through minimally invasive techniques, starting with three case studies; perch and repair, perceive and patch, fire and forget.

In showcasing research that is inspired by nature, the ARCC network brings together a collection of research projects that place health and wellbeing at the heart of their work:

University of Reading/Royal Horticultural Society

This research has been exploring the performance of urban vegetation and indoor plants. Whether we are planting green roofs or hoping to improve internal air quality – how do we know that the plants we select can perform in the way intended?

BiotA Lab, University College London

BiotA Lab is an innovative design research platform that merges architecture, biology and engineering. The lab explores new modes of simulation and production in architecture, as well as advances in the field of synthetic biology, biotechnology, molecular engineering and material sciences, leading towards an ever-increasing multidisciplinary approach to environmental design. The result is a new sense of materiality, new hybrid technologies and unprecedented living forms that are redefining not only building design, but our whole built environment.

National Centre for Earth Observations/University College London

With a tree laser-scanner to be on site at ecobuild, researchers will demonstrate how the laser captures tree shape and size in very fine 3D detail, from leaves right up to whole sections of forest. The 3D points are then turned into measurements of tree size, branch details, number of leaves as well as things like the volume and mass of the tree. This is crucial for understanding how trees capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, help mitigate the effects of climate, and even help remove pollutants from the urban air.

Researchers will be available on each day of ecobuild to discuss this research and the application to the built environment.

Find out more information on this research showcase or contact Tanya Wilkins on 0756 114 5860.

About UKCIP and the ARCC network

UKCIP delivers the ARCC network to provide a UK-wide network to develop and exchange knowledge and evidence to inform policy and practice. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the network supports the creation of robust built environment and infrastructure sectors within the UK, to deliver benefits to society, the economy and the environment.

About the EPSRC UK-RAS Network

The EPSRC UK-RAS Network promotes key areas of UK strengths in transport, healthcare, manufacturing, unmanned systems and underpinning RAS technologies. The Network has gained increasing national and international recognition, becoming a think tank for government, academia and industry, bringing together academic centres of excellence, industry, government, funding bodies and charities.

About the National Centre for Earth Observation

The National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) is a distributed centre with over 80 scientists from UK institutions, led by Professor John Remedios at the University of Leicester. It provides NERC with national capability in Earth observation science and incorporates world-class capabilities in interpretive Earth observation to meet the needs of society through long-term core science and translation of knowledge and environmental data for government and business.

NCEO has world-class capabilities in processing and analysing the vast quantities of data generated by satellites, aircraft and ground-based instruments to monitor and understand global and regional environmental change.

For more information contact:, telephone 0118 3786728 / 07872416466