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China needs to get ahead in the robot race, says expert

Time:2015/9/19 Posted:鼎盛国际-16602090555

A smart robot at the 2nd China Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia, Sept. 11. (File photo/Xinhua)

China needs to begin investing in the next generation of robots rather than simply catching up with existing technology based on its traditional role as the "world's factory," an industry expert said.

China's robot industry cannot follow the "world's factory" approach and throw money at partnerships with foreign companies that own leading technologies, said Luo Jun, CEO of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance.

The robot industry in China began its rise after the 2008 global financial crisis, which forced companies to look to cost-cutting measures, according to Shanghais's China Business News.

"Around the world, the robot industry is the only sector that posted growth amid the economic slowdown after the financial crisis, recording a growth rate of nearly 30%," said Xu Fang, head of the research unit of Siasun Robot & Automation, based in Shenyang in northeastern China.

China has since become the world's largest market for robots, with the country's robot industry growing at 60%, and demand will remain strong in the next decade because the current penetration of one robot per 10,000 workers in the country is only half the global average, according to Xu.

There are over 500 companies in China involved in the robot business, including over 40 publicly listed manufacturers, while over 40 industrial parks have been set up for the sector across the country, Xu noted.

Seventy percent of China's robot market, however, is controlled by the four leading robot companies in the world — Switzerland's ABB, Germany's Kuka, Japan's Kawasaki and FANUC, said the report.

Luo said it is difficult for Chinese companies to catch up in the field of traditional robots, and the country should begin building a position in "Robot 2.0" in order to have a say in the direction of the robot business in the future.

If China fails to do so, the robot sector will follow its auto sector and become just an assembly base that lacks its own core technology, Luo said.

Working with foreign robot makers will only put the robot business in the same position China's manufacturing sector is in now and force it to undergo an upgrade in five to 10 years, according to Luo.

China should instead spend the money to encourage local robot makers to work with leading research institutes around the world so they can be better positioned for future demand for smart robots, Luo said.

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