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? This has been researched by the International Federation of Robotics and published in the 2023 update paper of “World Robotics R&D Programs”.
“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.
The overview shows that the most advanced robotics countries in terms of annual installations of industrial robots – China, Japan, USA, South Korea, Germany – and the EU drive very different R&D strategies:
Robotics R&D programs – officially driven by governments
In China, the “14th Five-Year Plan” for Robot Industry Development, released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing on 21st December 2021, focuses on promoting innovation. The goal is to make China a global leader for robot technology and industrial advancement. Robotics is included in 8 key industries for the next 5 years. In order to implement national science and technology innovation arrangements, the key special program “Intelligent Robots” was launched under the National Key R&D Plan on 23rd April 2022 with a funding of 43.5 million USD. 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: The country ranks 5th worldwide in 2021 compared to 20th (140 units) in 2018.
In Japan, the “New Robot Strategy” aims to make the country the world´s number one robot innovation hub. More than 930.5 million USD in support has been provided by the Japanese government in 2022. Key sectors are manufacturing (77.8 million USD), nursing and medical (55 million USD), infrastructure (643.2 million USD) and agriculture (66.2 million USD). The action plan for manufacturing and service includes projects such as autonomous driving, advanced air mobility or the development of integrated technologies that will be the core of next-generation artificial intelligence and robots.
A budget of 440 million USD was allocated to robotics-related projects in the “Moonshot Research and Development Program” over a period of 5 years from 2020 to 2025. According to the statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR, Japan is the world´s number one industrial robot manufacturer and delivered 45% of the global supply in 2021.
The 3rd Basic Plan on Intelligent Robots of South Korea is pushing to develop robotics as a core industry in the fourth industrial revolution. The Korean government allocated 172.2 million USD in funding for the “2022 Implementation Plan for the Intelligent Robot”. From 2022 to 2024 a total of 7.41 million USD 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 is the European Union’s key research and innovation framework program with a budget of 94.30 billion USD for seven years (2021-2027). Top targets are: strengthening the EU’s scientific and technological bases, boosting 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 198.5 million USD for the robotics-related work program 2021-2022.
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 69 million USD annually until 2026 – a total budget of 345 million USD 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.
Research topics are: digital assistance systems such as data glasses, human-robot-collaboration, exoskeletons to support employees in their physical work, but also 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.
The National Robotics Initiative (NRI) in the USA was launched for fundamental robotics R&D supported by the US government. The NRI-3.0 program, announced in February 2021, seeks research on integrated robot systems and builds upon the previous NRI programs. The US government supported the NRI-3.0 fund to the sum of 14 million USD in 2021. Collaboration among academics, industry, government, non-profit, and other organizations is encouraged. The “Moon to Mars” project by NASA for example 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 US government is planning to allocate a budget of 35 billion USD 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. Regarding annual installations of industrial robots, the USA takes 3rd position.