The new five-year plan for the robotics industry is principally a good sign for China’s robotics industry. Whereas other parts of the Chinese technology sector have been hit by stricter regulatory measures in the past year, this plan highlights the ongoing political support for this field. Chinese venture capital investments in robotics almost doubled in 2021 compared to 2020.
Gains of local suppliers were also incremental until recently. Some observers say they came despite the government policies. Domestic companies can only go into price wars when they have corresponding funding. As we have seen in China’s machine tool industry before, huge credit lines can lead to a lack of financial discipline.
Can china pick the right winners?
One of the goals of the new plan is to consolidate the industry and create larger entities. An example of success is HIKROBOT, the logistics robot branch of HIKVISION, China’s leading state-owned supplier of video surveillance equipment. The Achilles heel of both these companies is their proximity to the Chinese state.
Recent developments make me more optimistic about the capabilities of local companies than five years ago. China has increased its number of robotics scientists, many of them educated abroad. Subsidies and fierce competition in China are bringing down prices, which will pave the way for new robotics applications.
Georg Stieler is managing director for Asia at international consulting firm STM Stielers. He is responsible for Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He says the region has a long way to go before it can be considered a major player in the global economy.