Officials hope to reduce the number of disruptions and costs to infrastructure, in addition to inspecting difficult to reach locations on wind farms and undersea oil and gas pipelines.
UK science minister Chris Skidmore announced £26.6m of investments in 15 projects, with a £7.2m government grant presented to scientists from universities in Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and others.
The remaining funds will drive research into developing robotics for use in dangerous environments such as oil pipeline drones and artificial intelligence programmes to facilitate satellite repairs in space. 1cm-long microbots will also work to fix pipeline fissures to avoid disruptions costing the UK government £5bn per year.
The UK government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Research and Innovation (UKRI) programme have provided funding, with University of Sheffield professor Kirill Horoshenkov, a Russian-born expert in acoustics and mechanical engineering, leading the projects.
"While for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future," Mr. Skidmore said.
"From deploying robots in our pipe network so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better," he continued. "Experts in our top UK universities across the country are well equipped to develop this innovative new technology."
— UKRI (@UKRI_News) December 30, 2018
UKRI chief executive professor Sir Mark Walport said in a statement: "The projects announced today demonstrate how robots and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we carry out complex and dangerous tasks, from maintaining offshore wind farms to decommissioning nuclear power facilities.
"They also illustrate the leading role that the UK's innovators are playing in developing these new technologies which will improve safety and boost productivity and efficiency."