Interview: Spanish robotics industry wants to be in Chinese market "at all costs": business leader

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-10 04:03:52|Editor: yan
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by Paul Giblin, Javier Ureta

MADRID, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish robotics industry is on the cutting edge of technology and produces high quality products, but China is a model which can help Spain to continue advancing in the sector, an industry leader has told Xinhua.

Moreover, China is "a very interesting market for us and we want to be there at all costs. We have offices in Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai to help our robotics industry gain a foothold there", said Sonsoles Huidobro, head of Industrial Technology at the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX).

Huidobro analyzed the robotics sector during the Global Robot Expo 2019 which was held at the IFEMA exhibition center in Madrid on Wednesday and Thursday, attracting over 12,000 visitors over the two days.

"The robotics sector is a key area for Spain because it combines research and development and also provides our industry with added value," she told Xinhua.

According to the ICEX data consulted by Xinhua, Spain has installed more than 35,000 operational robots in different sectors.

The number of robots in Spain increased by 6 percent in the 2018 and there are already two robots per 1,000 workers in the Spanish economy.

The ICEX is an agency of the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade serving Spanish companies to promote their exports and facilitate their international expansion.

According to Huidobro, 48 percent of robots operates in the automobile industry, where Spain is the ninth biggest producer in the world, manufacturing 2,819,565 vehicles last year.

Despite this impressive presence, there is still margin for growth. According to the figures of the Spanish Association of Robotics and Automation (AER), Spain is currently in a process of expansion, selling 3,900 robots abroad in 2018.

The figures for Spain are only beaten in Europe by Germany, Italy and France, although China is the undisputed world leader.

China's industrial robot industry has developed rapidly with sales last year increasing nearly 15 percent, latest statistics from a Chinese think tank showed.

A total of 156,400 industrial robots were sold in China in 2018, an increase of 14.97 percent year on year, making the country world's largest market for industrial robots for six consecutive years, according to GGII, a Chinese think tank on emerging industries.

Tremendous development of main user industries such as automobile, high-end equipment manufacturing, and electronic and electrical appliances has boosted the sales of industrial robots.

According to Huidobro, this means Spain can learn from Chinese know-how.

She also stressed that robotics can not only transform the economy and ways of working, but can have a positive effect on society.

"This sector has enormous possibilities of transforming society for the better by helping improve our quality of life," she observed.

Artificial intelligence and the application of robots were the two main themes of the Global Robot Expo.

"Society is very afraid that robots and artificial intelligence will take our place, but the reality is that they can help us a lot, especially in decision making," The Global Robot Expo's Marketing Manager, Patrick Cyrus told Xinhua.

In order to help develop the robotics industry, the Spanish government maintains the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), which is a public institution created to finance projects in the sector.

"It is a sector that is under intensive development in this country and the government believes the CDTI is important to help the industry grow," Pilar Gonzalez, head of the Institutional Promotion Department of the CDTI, told Xinhua.

Gonzalez explained that Spain and China have close bilateral cooperation thanks to a joint program to finance the best robotics projects between the two countries.

"We meet periodically to analyze what we want to invest in. Our relations with China are fantastic," she said, before predicting a bright future for the sector.

"There are many universities that include robotics among their courses and that provides us with a lot of talent. We are seeing the birth of a generation of young companies whose vocation is to work in robotics and artificial intelligence," Gonzalez added.