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Boosting Germany’s Competitiveness with Robotics and Automation

by Pieter Werner

The German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) is backing innovation goals set by the Federal Chancellor’s Council for the Future through its strategy paper, “Robotics and Automation 2028”. The paper underscores the pivotal role of robotics and automation in transforming Germany’s economic landscape.

“Robotics and automation are key technologies to remain globally competitive and tackle transformational tasks,” says Patrick Schwarzkopf, Managing Director of VDMA’s Robotics + Automation division. “Economies, particularly in Asia and North America, are strategically nurturing global technology leaders and are engaged in an international race for market share. These countries bolster their robotic champions through government subsidies, venture capital, and industrial policies. Recently, China surpassed the United States in robot density and is expected to overtake Germany in industrial automation this year. Germany now needs to implement an ambitious strategy to stay at the forefront.”

The strategy paper “Robotics and Automation 2028” at a glance:

Robotics and automation, recognized as key technologies for our competitiveness, will be massively accelerated. The Robotics + Automation division has set the following goals:

1. As a technology leader in industrial robots, German robotics and automation will grow faster than the comparable global market by 2028.

2. By 2028, Germany will become a technology leader in professional service robotics, successfully scaling in the European and international markets, for instance in lab automation, transport and logistics, and hospitality.

Top 7 Recommendations: “Robotics and Automation 2028”

The proposed measures focus on accelerating innovation, promoting talent, and implementing industrial policy measures. Examples include:

1. Forming consortia to successfully scale innovative applications of robotics and automation in the market, e.g., fuel cell production.

2. Simplifying data integration for the manufacturing industry via a scalable data ecosystem (Manufacturing-X) to rapidly unlock AI potentials.

3. Strengthening top-level research by successfully applying and scaling it in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), aiming for technological market leadership. Research fields such as robot safety, human-robot collaboration, and artificial intelligence (AI) are to be expanded.

4. Doubling the number of university places in robotics and automation.

5. Mandatory introduction of a school subject: technology.

6. Investment incentives for users of robotics and automation.

7. More favorable financing conditions and better access to venture capital for providers of robotics and automation.

“Germany and Europe are exposed to an aggressive global location competition. Industrial policy interventions from leading competitor nations lead to significant disadvantages, posing severe threats to the resilience of domestic production capacities,” says Frank Konrad, Chairman of VDMA’s Robotics + Automation division. The successful scaling of future technologies such as fuel cells/electrolyzers, photovoltaics, or heat pumps requires consistent industrial, financial, and tax policy responses to global location competition. “We need to act now, or else there will be no production of these future technologies in Germany.”

Download the paper here

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