Business / Technology

New center to build up robot parts capabilities

By Ma Si and Jing Shuiyu (China Daily) Updated: 2016-09-10 07:10

New center to build up robot parts capabilities

A technician installs programs into a robot at an industry expo in Xiamen, Fujian province.[Photo/Xinhua]

Broader plan seeks to construct 40 such facilities to tackle technology bottlenecks in major industries

China plans to set up a State-level innovation center by the year-end to boost homegrown companies' production capability in key robot components, the minister of industry and information technology, Miao Wei, said on Friday.

The move is part of China's broad plan to tackle technological bottlenecks in key industries. The aim is to build about 40 State-level innovation centers by 2025, to make the country's manufacturing industry smarter, safer and more flexible.

Miao said the center would focus on developing speed reducers, drive and control devices, as well as other key robot components that China currently needs to import from other countries.

"The center will be established by leading robotics firms and research institutes and it is designed to reduce repetitive investments by pooling best resources together," Miao said.

A source at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told China Daily that the center would be co-funded by companies and governments.

"But the investment size has not been decided yet," he said.

The move came shortly after China set up its first innovation center in June to advance research and development in batteries used in electric vehicles.

The center has so far attracted first-phase capital of more than 1.2 billion yuan ($179 million) from automakers and local governments. It aims to help China catch up with Japan and South Korea in battery technology by 2020.

Vice-Premier Ma Kai said on Friday that when cranking up the automation of factories, "it is important to ensure that homegrown firms master core technologies."

China is targeting an annual output of 100,000 industrial robots by 2020. Fueled by rising labor costs and a thriving labor pool, the country became the world's biggest buyer of industrial robots in 2013, data from the International Federation of Robotics shows.

Wang Bin, product director at Beijing-based robot start-up Cloud Minds, said a robot arm can be worth several million yuan and most of that cost came from foreign components such as speed reducers and servomotors.

"The State-level innovation center will lower the entry barrier for startups and inspire mass innovation in the cash-intensive robot industry," Wang said.

He Dongdong, senior vice-president at Sanyi Group Co Ltd, a leading machinery maker in China, said the government's 40-innovation-center plan values the role of enterprises in driving innovation.

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