The development of China’s robotics industry was a focus of attention at the World Robot Conference 2023 held from Aug. 16 to 21 in Beijing, as experts engaged in heated discussions about the current state of the industry and its institutional arrangements, while forecasting future trends.
Robots play a vital role in the interconnection of things in intelligent manufacturing. Xin Guobin, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, emphasized the rapid advancement of new technologies such as integrated perception, digital “twins,” artificial intelligence, and structural bionics. Concurrently, robots are exhibiting characteristics such as human-machine integration, virtual-actual fusion, intelligence driving, and ubiquitous interaction. This convergence of factors indicates that the industry is on the cusp of a transformative phase, presenting significant investment opportunities and fostering development momentum.
China boasts the world’s largest robot market, along with the broadest range of application scenarios, Xin said, adding that the country is ready and able to seize the opportunities presented by this transition and contribute more uniquely Chinese plans and insights to global development.
Currently, the Chinese robotics industry is experiencing a steady rise, accompanied by a remarkable expansion of application scenarios and the accelerated indigenization of core components and parts. Notably, products such as collaborative robots, logistics robots, and specialized robots are expanding their advantages, while a multitude of innovative enterprises are emerging in the market. High-quality enterprises specializing in robot development are predominantly concentrated in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region,
the Yangtze River Delta, and the Pearl River Delta, forming industrial clusters represented by Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Dongguan, Hangzhou, and Tianjin.
In recent years, China has unveiled a series of policies, including the 14th Five-Year Robot Industry Development Plan and the Implementation Plan of “Robot Plus” Application Action, to provide solid underpinnings for advancing the high-quality development of the robotics sector. Meanwhile, universities and research institutes have stepped up their research and development efforts, leading to significant scientific and technical innovations. Nonetheless, certain key and generic technologies necessitate the aggregation of research and development resources from both industry and academia to achieve targeted breakthroughs.
Max Q.–H. Meng, a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, told CSST that whether the robotics industry is developed has become a crucial criterion for evaluating the level of sci-tech innovation and high-end manufacturing of a country and region. At present, the global robotics industry is flourishing, as major industrial countries are mulling related policies and formulating strategies and action plans at the national level, actively drawing the roadmap for the industry. According to Meng, China has fostered an absolute edge in the global robotics wave due to its enhanced overall strength in the industry and the comprehensiveness of the industrial chain.
Technological research and the utilization of robots in China have always been comprehensive, with more attention paid to the development of robots for production and manufacturing over the past decade, said Fei Chen, an IEEE Senior Member and co-chair of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Technical Committee on Neuro-Robotics Systems. As basic technologies mature and the industry develops in full swing, China’s robotics sector is progressively marching toward the mid-to-high end, while emerging technologies and scenarios will spring up, signifying broader prospects, Chen added.