Auto, 3C sectors at forefront of robotic application in China, study finds

A closer look at robotic applications by segment shows increasing penetration in new energy vehicle, healthcare, electricity inspection and photovoltaic industries.

Automobile and electronics are the biggest consumers of robotics in China, and large language model will become the brain that underpins robotic intelligence, a top-notch industrial study says.

According to a report on China’s robotic technology and industrial development, released yesterday at a forum of the ongoing 2023 World Robot Conference in Beijing, robotics are at the confluence of cutting-edge technologies and will spur a digital transition of many industries, said Chen Ying, vice president and secretary-general of China Electronics Enterprises Association.

China’s significant strides in robotics are mirrored by the growing number of related patents.

Patent applications filed by research institutions and companies in China have topped the world for years on end, the study indicates.

A breakdown reveals that China has acquired a large number of patents in robotic modules and reconfiguration, multi-task planning, smart control, sensing and navigation.

Major driving force

As domestic adoption of robots is steadily on the rise, China has established itself as a major driving force of the world’s robotic industry.

Last year alone, the country’s robotic sector recorded full-year revenue exceeding 170 billion (US$23.34 billion) yuan in 2022, and continued to grow at double-digit rates, according to Xin Guobin, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology.

Sales of industrial robots last year in China made up more than half of the world’s total and ranked No. 1 for 10 consecutive years, Xin added.

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The robotic sector is also receiving an extra boost thanks to its deeper integration with fast-growing state-of-the-art technologies, like AI, biotech, new materials and brain-machine interface.

City clusters

The study also suggests that leading robotic enterprises are mainly distributed in three city clusters, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster in the north, Yantze River Delta in the southeast and Pearl River Delta further south.

Among them, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing lead the nation in the size of their robotic industry, followed by Dongguan, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Suzhou and Foshan.

The robotic spaces in Guangzhou and Qingdao are relatively smaller, but have huge potential, the report says.

Division of labor

It also highlights the division of labor among these cities, as each has a unique role in the overall ecosystem.

Specifically, Beijing focuses on smart robotics, while Shenzhen specializes in manufacturing service robots and Shanghai is dedicated to the application of industrial robots.

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Dongguan, a manufacturing hub, is known as a big supplier of robotic parts. Hangzhou, home to internet giants Alibaba and NetEase, sets its sights on robotic integration.

Tianjin stands out with its specialized robots. Suzhou is home to renowned robotic businesses from home and abroad.

Foshan eyes an opportunity to tap the mid-to-lower echelons of the industrial chain. Guangzhou bets big on development of industrial robots. Qingdao is doubling down on deploying robots in a variety of use cases.

Increasing penetration

A closer look at robotic applications by segment shows increasing penetration in new energy vehicle, healthcare, electricity inspection and photovoltaic industries.

The following is a list of areas the study believes robots have made a difference in.

In the healthcare scenario, robot-assisted surgeries have become the norm.

In the space of electricity inspection, robots are adopted at a faster pace to police the smart grid and ensure safety.

In the NEV segment, demand for energy replenishment has called forth mobile EV charging robots.

In the PV realm, robots are helping maintain solar power plants.

In the logistics domain, robot fleets are central to the automation of warehouse operation.

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In the sphere of outdoor delivery, self-driving carts transport goods within safety perimeters to solve the last-mile problem.

In the case of firefighting, robots accelerate the upgrade of intelligent emergency response and rescue effort.

In commercial services, a combination of cloud computing and robotics leads to significantly better services and user experience.

Mutually reinforcing

Toward its end, the study predicts that advancements of electronics, mechanics, biology and materials are complementary and mutually reinforcing, resulting in a shift toward an ecosystem and tech sophistication going forward.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at

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