Different Countries, Different Robots
The International Federation of Robotics has examined the robotics research of different countries. Despite similar themes such as Industry 4.0, service robots and cobots, every country has its own priorities.
Be it in Asia, Europe or America, new technology such as artificial intelligence, big data and 5G are driving robotics research all around the world. Nevertheless, countries choose to focus on different priorities in their research programmes, a phenomenon analysed by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) in their new “World Robotics R&D Programs” report.
China sets its sights on domestic robot manufacturers and market share
China hopes that the strategic plan "Made in China 2025", which was adopted in 2015, will modernise Chinese industry’s production capacity. Various accompanying guidelines and development plans concern the robotics industry. The goals for 2020 include establishing three to five globally competitive robot manufacturers in China, achieving 45% of domestic market share for robots produced in China, and increasing robot density to 100 units per 10,000 workers – a target which was already met in 2018 with 140 units. Innovation and production capacity are also set to be increased, including in the areas of welding robots, cleaning robots, intelligent industrial robots and cobots. According to the IFR, China invested 577 million U.S. dollars in the development of intelligent robots in 2019.
Japan set to become a global centre for innovation
Support for the robotics industry is a key element of the strategy Japan adopted in 2014, known as Abenomics, to revitalise the country’s economy. In 2018, Japan delivered 52% of global supply, making it the world leader for the production of industrial robots. In 2019, the government increased the budget for robotics research to 351 million U.S. dollars in order to establish Japan as a future global centre for innovation in robotics. The government aims to make progress in robotics in the manufacturing industry, services, healthcare, infrastructure, emergency management, construction, agriculture and forestry, fishing and the food industry.
South Korea is creating standard models for robot applications
As part of its 3rd basic plan for intelligent robots, published in 2019, South Korea hopes to widen and increase the use of robots in promising sectors. In order to reach the target of 700,000 production robots sold by 2023, standard models are due to be developed for the use of robots in 108 different processes typically found in the basic materials, textile and food industries. Another priority is the development of service robots for sectors such as healthcare and logistics. This includes robot drones and robots for agriculture. South Korea also plans to support the development of key components such as smart controllers, sensors and intelligent grippers as well as robot software. The country’s 2020 budget for robotics research is 126 million U.S. dollars. According to the IFR, South Korea had a stock of around 300,000 industrial robots in 2018.
The EU is backing digitalisation, AI and cobots
Robotics projects funded by Horizon 2020 represent a wide variety of areas, from industrial manufacturing, commerce and healthcare to transport, agriculture and food, and the private sphere. According to the IFR, the European Commission is providing an estimated 780 million U.S. dollars for research and innovation over the programme’s seven-year duration. The work programme’s main areas of focus for the 2018 to 2020 period, for which it has a total budget of 173 million U.S. dollars, are the digitalisation of industry using robotics, robotics applications in new sectors and core technologies such as AI and perception, cognitive mechatronics, socially cooperative interaction between humans and robots, and model-based design and configuration tools.
Germany is investing in platforms for service robotics
The German government is investing 55 million U.S. dollars (50 million euros) over five years in robotics research for Industry 4.0 as part of its PAiCE programme, which began in 2016. The central theme of PAiCE is digital industry platforms and cooperation between companies that use these platforms. The IFR explains that the robotics projects are especially focused on the creation of platforms for service robotics solutions for applications in services, logistics and manufacturing. Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world and number one in Europe, followed by Italy and France. In 2018, the number of robots sold increased by 26% to a new record high of almost 27,000 units.
The USA is working on ubiquitous cobots
As part of the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), the USA is investing primarily in fundamental research to put into practice its vision of ubiquitous collaborative robots that will help humans in every aspect of life. In addition, NRI-2.0 is supporting collaboration between universities, industry, not-for-profit organisations and other organisations. The NRI had a budget of 35 million U.S. dollars in 2019. Additional funding for the use of robotics in defence and space technology is being provided by the Department of Defence and the Mars Exploration Program. According to the IFR, robot installations in the United States increased for the eighth year in a row to an all-time high in 2018. The country is now in third place ahead of South Korea in terms of yearly installations.