The goal of IFRR is promoting scientific excellence in robotics research. IFRR establishes the theoretical foundations and technology as a basis for its ever expanding robotics applications, with an emphasis on its potential role to benefit humans. The Foundation was formally established as a non-profit entity in 1986 following the success of a series of pioneering symposia that were conceived to provide the emerging community with a forum entirely devoted to all areas of robotics research.

The First International Symposium of Robotics Research (ISRR) was initiated and organized by Mike Brady and Richard Paul with the financial support of the Systems Development Foundation and the scientific contribution of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR). The First Symposium was convened in Bretton Woods (New Hampshire, USA) in August 1983 in a format where the number of participants was deliberately limited to encourage meaningful technical and personal interactions.

The success of the First Symposium brought a strong commitment to pursue in the same spirit the organization of ISRR as a financially self-sustained series of Symposia around the world. Participants were brought together from across all areas of robotics to assess and share their views about the field and its future directions. The Second Symposium was organized by Hideo Hanafusa and Hirochika Inoue in Kyoto (Japan) in August 1984, and the Third Symposium was organized by Olivier Faugeras and Georges Giralt in Gouvieux (France) in October 1985.

The international dimensions of the Foundation were reflected in the the broad composition of its Board of eighteen officers, equally distributed across the regions of Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. IFRR sponsors series of symposia, for example, the editions of the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER) began in 1989, the Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics (WAFR) started in 1994, bi-annual meetings on Field and Service Robotics (FSR) were added in 1997, the series Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) got initiated by Sebastian Thrun in 2005, and most recently editions of the Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL) was launched in 2017.

Through closer cooperations and coordination with other robotics conferences, societies, and publications, IFRR continues to expand its effort to promote the development and dissemination of research within our growing robotics community.