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China’s Breakthrough in the Robotics Industry

China has pledged to achieve breakthroughs in core robotic technologies and related high-end products by 2025. China also aims to become an innovation hub for the global robotics industry by 2025, as it works to achieve breakthroughs in robotics components and widen the application of smart machines in more sectors.

The move is part of the nation’s broader push to cope with a greying population and leverage cutting-edge technologies to advance industrial upgrades. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a five-year plan that the operating income of China’s robotics industry is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 20% from 2021 to 2025.

China has been the world’s largest market for industrial robots for eight consecutive years. In 2020, the manufacturing robot density, a metric used to measure a country’s level of automation, reached 246 units per 10,000 people in China, nearly twice the global average

China aims to double its manufacturing robot density by 2025. High-end, advanced robots are expected to be used in more sectors such as the automobile, aerospace, railway transportation, logistics and mining industries. More efforts will also be made to achieve breakthroughs in core robot components, such as speed reducers, servomotors and control panels, which are recognised as the three basic building blocks of sophisticated automated machines.

– Wang Weiming, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

The goal is that by 2025, the performance and reliability of these homegrown key components can reach the level of advanced foreign products. From 2016 to 2020, China’s robotics industry grew rapidly, with an average annual growth rate of about 15%. In 2020, the operating income of China’s robotics sector exceeded 100 billion yuan ($15.7 billion) for the first time, data from the ministry show.

In the first 11 months of 2021, the cumulative output of industrial robots in China exceeded 330,000 units, marking year-on-year growth of 49%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. As key equipment for modern industries, robots can lead an industry’s digital development and upgrades of intelligent systems. Meanwhile, service robots can also serve as assistants to an ageing population and improve people’s quality of life. Thanks to technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence, service robots can play a bigger role in elderly healthcare.

The International Federation of Robotics predicted that globally industrial robot installations are expected to rebound strongly and grow by 13% year-on-year to 435,000 units in 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, exceeding the record achieved in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven changes in the logistics industry, which includes the acceleration of innovation, automation and digitalisation in the workplace.

According to a paper, the Chinese robot market is one of the largest in the world although the robot density remains far lower than that of many other industrialised nations. Major users include the electrical and electronics sector and the automotive industry, together with growing applications in the burgeoning hospitality and logistics sectors.

China has been utilising robots in various fields, including healthcare with the development of vascular interventional surgical robots. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Chinese researchers from the Beijing Institute of Technology have cooperated with Beijing Tiantan Hospital and other units to research core technology optimisation and special consumables of vascular interventional surgery robots. The surgery robot has become the interventional robot product with the fastest research and development progress in China.

With the support of the project of the National Key R&D Programme of China “Industrialisation Research and Application of Minimally Invasive Vascular Interventional Surgery Robot”, the development of the robot was fully completed. At present, the surgical robot, after further technological upgrades, has taken the lead in entering the clinical trial stage registered by the NMPA (National Medical Products Administration), and 123 clinical trial cases have been completed.

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