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York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy

A £35m Initiative to safely and ethically realise the full potential of robotics and connected autonomous systems.

Robotics, autonomous systems and AI have the potential to transform the way we live, travel and work – from driverless cars and remotely monitored ships to assistive robots at work, in the home and in hospitals.

Our mission is to ensure that robotics, their software, and their communications are safe.

Based in a dedicated building housing specialist laboratories and testing facilities, the York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy will address global challenges in assuring the safety of robotics and connected autonomous systems.

It will provide a world-leading ecosystem for research and innovation, education, public engagement, and commercial realisation.

The York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy will contribute significantly to the national Industrial Strategy, enabling us to establish a world-class facility and help strengthen the UK’s position as a leader in the safe introduction of advanced technology.

Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of York

Research pillars

Design and verification

By designing and verifying safety-centred software and hardware, we will ensure RCAS can be trusted in challenging environments – from nuclear plants to busy roads.


We will overcome barriers to assuring and regulating RCAS as they increasingly employ methods, such as AI, which currently cannot be given universal assurance for safety.


To enhance the security of communications between RCAS, we will develop resilient communication mechanisms and deploy quantum communication technologies.

Society and ethics

Our aim is to introduce RCAS appropriately and safely. We will consider practical ethics and how to ensure that the systems we develop and assure are acceptable and desirable.

A new flagship research facility

The Initiative will be housed in a dedicated new facility on the University's Campus East. It will provide workspace for up to 100 people, a rooftop lab, and specialist robotics design and testing equipment.

The University of York's campus will become a 'living lab' for autonomous technologies. The University will invest in infrastructure and work with local partners to develop spaces for testing autonomous land and air vehicles.

Work begins in April 2020. The building will open in 2021.

Artist's impressions of the new building.

Our expertise

Robotics and autonomous systems are going to make a big impact on the sectors we serve as a charity and key to uptake and application is going to be their assurance of safety and regulation. That is why establishing this programme with York is so important towards our purpose of working together for a safer world.

Professor Richard Clegg FREng, Chief Executive, Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Safety in autonomy through partnership

The York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy is funded through Research England’s flagship capital investment scheme, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).

Our Initiative is also supported with funding from the Lloyd's Register Foundation and an international network of collaborative industrial partners and private donors.

The Initiative is a part of York Unlimited, the Campaign for the University of York through which we will create new ways for science and technology to help society.

We recognise that for everyone to be included in the possibilities of the future will require more than technological brilliance: it will require responsibility and compassion.

If you share our vision, we warmly welcome opportunities for partnership with academic institutions, funding bodies, technology developers and policy making organisations. Please contact

Lloyd's Register Foundation logoResearch England logoYork Unlimited logo

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Leadership team

Meet the key people behind this initiative.

Meet the team


We're working under and across four central research pillars.

Our research

Work with us

We welcome partnership opportunities.

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