China is eyeing a bigger role in robotics

Already a major manufacturer of electronics, China is preparing to bolster its presence in robotics with the help of government support and investments.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will develop a “robotics technology roadmap” as part of new government plans, the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.

The country’s goal is to establish a robotics industry that can grab over 45 percent of the high-end market by 2020, the report said. It was not clear if the ministry was referring to the domestic or global market.

The ministry plans more financial support and new policies to help improve standards and robotics development.

“Currently, our country’s robotics industry still has some weaknesses in its technological foundations,” an official with the ministry said, according to the report. “The key core components used are heavily reliant on imports.”

Last year, China became the world’s largest buyer of industrial robots, with 36,560 units sold in the country, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). But only 9,000 of those robots came from domestic vendors, although those sales were triple those of the year before.

While the U.S. and Japan now have more industrial robots in operation, that will change by 2017, when China will have the most, with a projected 427,900 units, according to projections from IFR.

In China, many of these industrial robots are being put to use in car manufacturing, but the government robotics to spread to other industries such as construction, logistics and food production, the Xinhua report said.

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