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Opportunities and Challenges for European SMEs in China’s Industrial Robots Sector

By EU SME Centre | Report      21.11.2021     Tags: Artificial Intelligence

Since 2013, China has been the world’s largest market for industrial robots, maintaining sustainable and stable growth over the years. The market is creating enormous business opportunities, attracting global industrial robot enterprises scrambling to enter the Chinese market.

The European industrial robot industry has its unique advantages in providing state-of-the-art products and solutions for high-end industrial applications: in most cases, these needs cannot be fully satisfied by Chinese local suppliers. However, entering the Chinese market is a time-consuming process which requires a significant amount of resources and time; many European companies, especially SMEs, are not fully aware how to begin.

This report aims to give answers to these issues, by providing a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of the industrial robot market in China. Specifically:

  • The first section provides an overview of the Chinese market for industrial robots, including its size, driving factors, main product categories and application fields – both traditional such as automotive, as well as new emerging ones. This section also indicates the most important regional clusters in China for industrial robots, as well as the key players dominating the market – largely foreign enterprises, which are facing increasing competition from domestic producers.
  • The second section elaborates in detail on the role of government policies and incentives in pushing forward the development of industrial robots in China. The industrial robots industry is officially classified as a key strategic sector in the Made in China 2025 strategy; it is also an encouraged sector for foreign investment, and it is also central in the 14th Five-year Plan (2021-2025). This translates into a myriad of preferential policies, incentives, grants, subsidies and other forms of administrative support – at all government levels, from district to municipal, from provincial to national – granted to foreign investors who introduce their technologies and products in China.
  •  The third section examines in detail the market access requirements that industrial robots must meet in order to be exported to China. Specifically, it introduces the five mandatory national standards in the sector – which are identical to (IDT) ISO/IEC standards; it also introduces the requirements, processes and costs for obtaining the main certification scheme, i.e., the China Robot certificate – which although not mandatory, is often considered as a strong asset especially when applying to government subsidies and procurement. Finally, this section analyses the requirements, pros and cons for investing in China, with a special focus on the risks that European investors may face.
  • The fourth section summarises the main opportunities and challenges that European SMEs face in the Chinese market for industrial robots. Opportunities are significant and can largely outweigh the challenges – but only with meticulous planning, knowledge of the sector and informed decisions.

Finally, this report is enriched by two case studies that were developed through interviews with representatives of European companies in China. The first, a leading Italian company in the industrial automation field, highlights the strong support that local administrations in China give to enterprises operating in the industrial robots sector – as a way to attract investment and facilitate growth. The second case study, presenting the experiences of a Finnish SME and a leading German company, highlights the importance of localisation in China, achievable through on-the-ground presence and developing partnerships with local players.

Table of contents

1. Market overview
1.1. Market overview
1.2. Main product categories and application fields
1.3. Key regions and clusters
1.4. Key players
2. Key Policies and regulations
2.1. State Council-level policies
2.2. Ministry-level policies
2.3. Government incentives and subsidies
3. Market access requirements
3.1. Standards and certification schemes
3.2. Process for exports
3.3. Tariffs and costs for exporting to China
3.4. Requirements for investing in China
4. Opportunities and challenges
4.1. Opportunities
4.2. Challenges
5. Case studies
5.1. Experience from a leading Italian company in the field of industrial automation
5.2 Experience in localisation from a Finnish and a German company
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