IFR Breaks Down Global Robotics R&D Programs

In a published 2023 update paper by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) on World Robotics R&D Programs, the exact research funding programs of governments related to robotics are revealed.

Mainly, countries around the world invest in robotics to support developments in industry and society. What are the exact targets of robotics research funding programs (R&D) officially driven by governments in Asia, Europe and America today? “The 3rd version of World Robotics R&D Programs covers the latest funding developments including updates in 2022,” says Prof. Dr. Jong-Oh Park, Vice-Chairman IFR Research Committee and member of the Executive Board.

In particular, the overview shows that the most advanced robotics countries in terms of annual installations of industrial robots, including China, Japan, U.S.A., South Korea, Germany, and the European Union (EU), drive very different R&D strategies.

Government-led funding drives robotics investment R&D programs in major countries.

Government-Driven Robotics R&D Programs

China: 14th Five-Year Plan for Robotics Industry Development

China released the “14th Five-Year Plan” for Robot Industry Development on Dec. 21, 2021 in Beijing through the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Specifically, the plan focuses on promoting industry innovation. The goal is to make China a global leader for robot technology and industrial advancement.

Robotics is included in eight key industries for the next five years. The key special program “Intelligent Robots” was launched under the National Key R&D Plan on April 23, 2022 with a funding of US$43.5 million. This forms part of the implementation of national science and technology innovation arrangements.

The recent statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR shows that China reached a robot density of 322 units per 10,000 workers in the manufacturing industry. Specifically, the country ranks 5th worldwide in 2021 compared to 20th (140 units) in 2018.

Japan: New Robot Strategy

In Japan, the “New Robot Strategy” aims to make the country the world´s number one robot innovation hub. Specifically, in 2022, the Japanese government provided more than US$930.5 million in support.  Key sectors that received support are manufacturing (US$77.8 million), nursing and medical (US$55 million), infrastructure (US$643.2 million) and agriculture (US$66.2 million). The country provided an action plan for manufacturing and service. It includes projects, such as autonomous driving, advanced air mobility or development of integrated technologies that are core of next-generation artificial intelligence and robots. A budget of US$440 million was allocated to robotics-related projects in the “Moonshot Research and Development Program” over a period of five years from 2020 to 2025.

According to the statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR, Japan is the world´s number one industrial robot manufacturer. It delivered 45 percent of the global supply in 2021.

South Korea: The 3rd Basic Plan on Intelligent Robots

The 3rd Basic Plan on Intelligent Robots of South Korea is pushing to develop robotics as a core industry in the fourth industrial revolution. Specifically, the Korean government allocated US$172.2 million in funding for the “2022 Implementation Plan for the Intelligent Robot”. From 2022 to 2024, a total of US$7.41 million is planned in funding for the “Full-Scale Test Platform Project for Special-Purpose Manned or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”.

The statistical yearbook “World Robotics” showed an all-time high of 1,000 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in 2021. This makes Korea the country with the highest robot density worldwide.

Horizon Europe

Meanwhile, Horizon Europe is the EU’s key research and innovation framework program with a budget of US$94.30 billion for seven years (2021-2027). The program’s top targets are strengthening the EU’s scientific and technological bases. This boosts Europe’s innovation capacity, competitiveness and jobs as well as delivering on citizens’ priorities and sustaining socio-economic models and values. The European Commission provides total funding of US$198.5 million for the robotics-related work program 2021-2022.

Germany: High-Tech Strategy 2025

For its part, Germany´s High-Tech Strategy 2025 (HTS) is the fourth edition of the German R&D and innovation program. The German government will provide around US$69 million annually until 2026. In total, it has a budget of US$345 million for five years. As part of the HTS 2025 mission, the program “Shaping Technology for the People” was launched. This program aims to use technological change in society as a whole and in the world of work for the benefit of people. Specifically included are research topics like digital assistance systems such as data glasses, human-robot-collaboration, exoskeletons to support employees in their physical work. Moreover, it includes solutions for the more flexible organization of work processes or the support of mobile work.

According to the report “World Robotics” by IFR, Germany is the largest robot market in Europe. The robot density ranks in 4th place worldwide with 397 units per 10,000 employees.

U.S.A: The National Robotics Initiative

Moreover, the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) in the U.S.A. was launched for fundamental robotics R&D supported by the U.S. government. The NRI-3.0 program announced in February 2021 seeks research on integrated robot systems. Also, it builds upon the previous NRI programs. The U.S. government supported the NRI-3.0 fund to the sum of US$14 million in 2021. It encourages collaboration among academics, industry, government, non-profit, and other organizations.

For example, the “Moon to Mars” project by NASA highlights objectives to establish a long-term presence in the vicinity of and on the moon. The projects target research and technology development that will significantly increase the performance of robots to collaboratively support deep space human exploration and science missions. For the Artemis lunar program, the U.S. government is planning to allocate a budget of US$35 billion from 2020 to 2024.

The statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR shows that robot density in the United States rose from 255 units in 2020 to 274 units in 2021. The country ranks 9th in the world. Moreover, the U.S.A. takes 3rd position in terms of annual installations of industrial robots.