Future polarised labour markets, robots, and economic policy reforms

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Robots will take certain jobs humans do. Robots can also empower them to flourish in self-employment in an economy driven by robotics.

About this Event

The Imperial College Robotics Forum and the Department of Economics & Public Policy at Imperial College Business School invite you to attend an online workshop to explore future labour markets, robots, and economic policy reforms to be held on 8th March 2021 from 2pm - 5pm via Zoom. Professor Daron Acemoglu from MIT Economics will give a keynote.

Background and motivation

A 2017 policy report cautions that there are certain industries where more than 50% of the jobs can be replaced by automated machines that include robots. For instance, in the transport sector alone vehicle automation can affect 320,000 truck drivers in the UK and 3.2 million in the USA. A follow up report in 2019 also shows that these jobs disproportionately include women and minority ethnic communities.


To empower the affected communities, they should be given the opportunity to become active members of an inclusive robot-lead economy. For instance, how about an economy where also these communities can own, use, and profit from robotic technologies? In such an economy, people would be able to mortgage a robot, add value by training it to do a specialized task, and offer this as a service to industries that would benefit from not having to invest in machines or in their training. What if the government or the banking sector could come up with new economic models to launch a new economy of robot assisted self-employment?

From a robotics point of view, there is a major requirement to prepare for this economy. Human centred robots should open the opportunity to this kind of training, which could result in value added services in the industries that will see the highest level of automation. Furthermore, if new policy reforms can empower potentially affected people to take capital investment risk, the relevant industries will be relieved of the capital burden and will hopefully seek services from the self-employed robot owners.

This workshop will engage stakeholders including robotics researchers, policy makers, industries that are predicted to have a high degree of automation, economists, and government representatives to explore policy reforms to empower the affected segments of the labour force to shift focus on robot assisted self-employment.

Team of organisers

The Imperial Robotics Forum is a network of excellence at Imperial College London, founded in 2015. It connects 44 principal investigators pursuing cutting edge research in robotics from across multiple departments and faculties. Over the years, the network has collectively generated over 2,400 publications, 64 patents, and secured >£150M in funding. It employs 100+ post-doctoral research associates and research fellows, and oversees more than 200 PhD and EngD students. Its research has led to the creation of 16+ companies and benefits from 50+ ongoing industrial partnerships. PI, Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara is the speaker of the Robotics Forum.

The Department of Economics and Public Policy (EPP) at Imperial College Business School, investigates a diverse range of topics including: the effect of government climate change policies on business; the contribution of knowledge assets to economic growth; determining fairness and value in the telecommunications industry; issues around competition, market structure and industrial organization, and how to improve the quality of service in the public sector. The department has a particular focus in health economics and policy, studying incentives for individuals and health organisations. Prof Tommaso Valletti, is the Head of the EPP Department.


14:00 - 14:05 Welcome and Introductory address

Thrishantha Nanayakkara (Speaker of the Imperial Robotics Forum)

Tommaso Valletti (Head of the Department of Economics and Public Policy, Imperial College Business School)

14:05 - 15:25 Plenary session

What do we know about robot design and deployment trends, by academics.


14:05 – 14:10 Yiannis Demiris (Homes/Personal robotics), Imperial College London

14:10 – 14:15 Panagiotis Angeloudis (Autonomous driving), Imperial College London

14:15 – 14:20 Ferdinando Rodriguez y Baena (Health), Imperial College London

Industry complements and challenges. Contributions by industry representatives.


14:20 – 14:25 Rich Walker, Shadow Robot Company

14:25 – 14:30 Charles Collis, Dyson

14:30 – 14:35 Dermot Lynch, ABB

14:35 – 14:40 Bryn Balcombe, Autonomous Drivers Alliance (ADA), ITU Focus Group on AI for Autonomous and Assisted Driving

14:40 – 14:45 Neil Lawrence, University of Cambridge (Machine learning)

14:45 – 14:50 Stanislav Ivanov, Varna University of Management (Hospitality Industry & Tourism)

14:50 – 14:55 Iis Tussyadiah, University of Surrey (Hospitality Industry & Tourism)

15:05 - 15:25 Keynote by Professor Daron Acemoglu, MIT Economics (and Q&A)

15:25 - 15:55 Breakout sessions

Break out sessions on Infrastructure, Home and hospitality, and Health.

15:55 - 16:55 Plenary Report back and roundtable

Policy roundtable on challenges and questions going ahead.


Guy Michaels, LSE

Jeff Schwartz, Deloitte

Andrew Green, OECD

Gino Gancia, Queen Mary University

Jan Hoffmann, UNCTAD

Alan Winfield, UWE Bristol

16:55 - 17:00 Concluding remarks

How to join

Register to the event and receive the meeting link in your inbox, plus any updates from the organizers. Otherwise, you can also join via the following link:

Note: This will be a recorded event.


  • Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara, (Speaker, Imperial Robotics Forum)
  • Professor Tommaso Valletti, (Head of Department of Economics & Public Policy)
  • Dr Ana Cruz Ruiz, (Manager, Imperial Robotics Forum)
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