A multi-million pound robotics lab which those behind it claim will rival similar institutions in Japan and the USA is to be built in Bristol.
Doctor Who's K9 was a robot that could think for itself
The project is a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.
A spokesman described the scheme as "very exciting".
"We are involving people from different disciplines: neuroscientists looking at artificial brains and psychologists at artificial emotions," he said.
The Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is due to open in 2006.
The BRL spokesman added: "Robots can be trained to do the dull, dirty or dangerous work that humans do not want to do like managing sewers or patrolling the perimeters of farms.
"These new advanced robots would be able to think for themselves and be autonomous - they would not need to be constantly programmed."
But, he said, there was no need to fear robots capable of working independently and thinking for themselves - a favourite theme of science fiction writers.
"The biggest danger posed by a robot in our laboratory is the possibility of tripping over it," he said.