China Bought 44% More Robots in 2021 Than It Did in 2020, Finds IFR Report

The country has been the largest industrial robot market for nearly 10 years.

International Federation of Robotics

The preliminary results of IFR's latest report.
China accounted for half of the industrial robot installations worldwide in 2021, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

A new report by the International Federation of Robotics has found that the industrial robotics market in the People’s Republic of China is on the rise. The federation recorded 243,300 installations in the country in 2021. That’s a record and a 44% rise compared to 2020.  

“China was leading the global recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and accounted for half of worldwide robot installations in 2021,” said Marina Bill, president of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in a statement.  

The county has been the world’s largest industrial robot market since at least 2013. 

Chinese government bullish on automation

China’s aging workforce has led to a shortage of employees and has helped drive robotic adoption, the federation has found. Government officials in the country have announced plans to expand the country’s use of robots even further in the coming years.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology noted in its latest five-year report that it is aiming for the country to be a global leader in robotic technology adoption. In a blog post, the IFR outlined some objectives China is hoping to reach as it continues to invest in automation. Here is what it said in its own words: 

  • Improve innovation capabilities: For example, strengthen core technology research, make breakthroughs in common technologies such as robot system development and operating systems, develop cutting-edge technologies such as bionic perception and cognition and biomechanical integration, and promote the integration and application of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, big data, and cloud computing with robotics
  • Build a solid foundation for industrial development: For example, address existing shortcomings in areas such as special materials and core components, develop robot control software and core algorithms, and establish a national robot standardization organization to accelerate the research, formulation and application of urgently needed standards:
  • Increase the supply of high-end products focused on specific industry sectors
  • Expand the depth and breadth of applications through various measures bringing supply chain actors together as well as through standards and certification
  • Optimize the overall structure of the robotics industry, for example by: Cultivating leading, high-quality companies, supporting the development of a new group of specialized ‘little giant’ companies, and promoting collaboration between companies in the various tiers of the supply chain.

New profession: 'robotics engineering technician'

New professions are also being developed in the country. China’s Ministry of Human Resources conducted a survey of its job market for its sector encyclopedia earlier this year and found 18 new types of technology jobs in the country, reported the Global Times.

“Robotics engineer, cyber security engineer, and other brand-new occupations were listed in the new encyclopedia, in order to meet the demands for the country's development strategies in an increasingly digital era,” reads a report from the publication.

IFR said the robotic engineer position focuses on the “development of control algorithms and operating systems for robots, as well as the use of digital simulation technology.”

“China still has high potential for further growth,” added IFR President Bill. “The country´s robot density in the manufacturing industry amounts to 246 industrial robots per 10,000 employees thus ranking ninth worldwide in 2020. Ten years ago, China´s robot density was 15 units only.”

Robotic adoption growing across all industries

Bill added that across all industries robotic adoption is growing, with electronics being the strongest sector. The sector saw a 30% increase compared to 2020, with 81,600 installations.

“The automotive industry also showed a strong recovery, Bill said. “This was mainly driven by electric vehicle manufacturing in China. It rose by 89% in 2021 with 50,700 installations.

The IFR will host a press conference on Oct. 13 about the publication of its “World Robotics 2022” report at the Lyoner Strasse in Frankfurt, Germany.

Marina Bill held a keynote as IFR President at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference 2022 in Shanghai, China. She talked about the importance AI will have in the growth of robotic automation. This version here is a summary of the keynote speech.

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International Federation of Robotics

The preliminary results of IFR's latest report.

Robot Technologies