China: Global AI leader by 2030
While the Made in China 2025 includes many different initiatives, none encapsulate China’s ambitions better in the industrial upgrading process than the government’s plan for artificial intelligence.
China plans to build a domestic artificial intelligence industry worth USD 150 billion by 2030, and is supporting this goal by offering funding for AI-related companies, special grants for start-up companies in the field and increased support for AIrelated academic research.
China already leading in robotics
The most obvious, or well-known application of AI to manufacturing is in the form of developing robotic production systems, and with China’s push to apply AI to manufacturing, Chinese manufacturers are responding by automating their manufacturing processes and replacing humans with robots.
Indeed, the increase in installed robotic machinery in China has been dramatic. In 2016, China overtook the US and Japan, the previous leaders in installed robotics systems, with an estimated 340,000 industrial robots installed across the country, and that has grown significantly from the 17,000 installed robotics units estimated by the International Federation of Robotics in 2006, implying a CAGR of 90%2.
As well as installing the largest base of robotics systems in the world, Chinese companies are rapidly acquiring the knowhow to create robots of their own. For example, Midea, a Chinese electricals manufacturer, spent USD 4.7 billion in acquiring the German robot specialist Kuka, which has been regarded as one of the world’s leading robotics manufacturers.
And China is expected to dominate the global robotics industry by 2020, supplying 40% of all robots produced globally, according to IFR projections.