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Robotics to get 5-year push

Gao Yuan
Updated: Nov 21,2015 8:48 AM     China Daily

An intelligent robot inspects the equipment at a transformer station in Quanjiao county, Anhui province.[Photo/China Daily]

China is close to complete a five-year development plan for home-made robots industry, multiple sources said on Nov 20. The ambitious plan aims to more than double the market share of made-in-China robots to 50 percent by 2020.

An expert who participated in drawing up the plan said a committee advising on the robotics element of the country’s “Made in China 2025” strategy is “almost ready” to submit its draft to the central government for final approval.

“It will be announced in early 2016, if not next month,” said the expert, who asked to remain anonymous.

The government committee’s members come from across a range of key industrial sectors covered by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

“Made in China 2025” is an attempt to transform the country from being the biggest manufacturing power into one of the world’s strongest modern technology-driven economies.

Guangdong-based newspaper 21st Century Business Herald also reported the robot plan will be implemented by year end, citing another unnamed source.

A committee document supplied to China Daily revealed the country will look specifically at making “breakthroughs” in key technologies, such as decelerator and controlling systems.

The document also mapped out a longer 10-year growth route for the robotics industry, by which time China is expected to have more than 70 percent of the global market.

“Domestic robot makers will have a bigger say in the market in coming years as they advance in industrial know-how and in developing and manufacturing service robots,” the document said.

Luo Jun, executive president of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance, however said domestic players currently took about 20 percent of the market share, which makes the 50 percent target “very difficult to accomplish”. Luo said Chinese players currently have around a fifth of the global market, making the 50 percent target “very difficult to accomplish”.

Chinese vendors are already making strong inroads into lower-end markets, largely based on price. But it’s the global vendors, including Switzerland-based multinational ABB Ltd, that still have a firm hold on higher-end manufacturing, which demand greater levels of accuracy and sophistication of their robots, especially in areas such as welding or delicate assembly.

China’s car-making industry, the biggest domestic market for robots, still depends on imported devices for most assembly work.

According to the MIIT document, capturing a bigger local market remains the priority for domestic firms if they are to compete effectively with foreign rivals.

But as manufacturers continue to replace their sometimes aging systems with state-of-the-art robotics, the ministry estimates that by 2020 at least 150,000 will be added to Chinese factories, bringing the total industrial robot population nationally to 1.8 million by 2025.

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