Prefecture-level city under Hangzhou earmarks US$700m to build ‘robot town’

According to official plans, the town is tasked with developing the whole industrial chain of industrial robotics, ranging from core parts to robot per se, from system integration to application.

Xiaoshan, a prosperous prefecture-level city governed by eastern China’s Hangzhou, plans to set up an industrial fund worth 5 billion yuan (US$700 million) to build up what it calls a “robot town.”

The fund will mainly target high-tech enterprises, startups and venture projects started by high-caliber talent from home and abroad, state media reported.

One of its key focuses is to finance the development of a “robot town” in the city’s economic development zone.

When completed, it will be the first such town dedicated to robotics in the whole of Zhejiang Province.

A ‘special town’ fever

China has been gripped by a feverish campaign that began in the mid-2010s to dot the nation with a series of characteristic towns, so as to spur the differentiated growth of local economies.

Their fixation could be on sports, tourism, intangible heritage and so on.

The “robot town” in Xiaoshan sits on a land parcel of 3.51 square km and is at the heart of the Yangtze River Delta region, about a 90-minute drive from the other 15 major cities scattered across this economic powerhouse.

According to official plans, the town is tasked with developing the whole industrial chain of industrial robotics, ranging from core parts to robot per se, from system integration to application.

Its role is comparable to a multitude of industrial clusters across the nation, where technologies, talent, and institutions are expected to come together to forge an ecosystem and create synergies.

To date, the robot town in Xiaoshan is already home to six listed corporations, 71 companies with an annual revenue of 20 million yuan and more, and 71 nationally recognized high-tech firms.

It also boasts four provincial-level digital smart factories and two provincial-level futuristic plants.

As a cluster, the town has drawn global players like ABB and ZF as well as local startups Kaierda (凯尔达机器人), Qianjiang Robot (钱江机器人) and Robot Phoenix (翼菲并联机器人) to put down roots there.

Handsome incentives

To woo more robotics-related firms, Xiaoshan authorities pledge to roll out handsome incentives.

For instance, firms that relocate to the town will be eligible for up to 10 milllion yuan in bonus should they go public.

What’s more, companies that call the town home will receive a maximum 36 million yuan in subsidies.

The town’s operator vows to issue stipends to qualified talent who move to the town for work and life.

Xiaoshan is not alone in tapping into a frenzy over robotics. Governments at all levels in China, especially those in affluent regions, are now setting sights on a future driven by state-of-the-art technologies, with automation and robotics high on their agenda.

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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, Trip.com 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 nitao0927@gmail.com.

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