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China Sets Aside 600 Million Yuan for Robotics to Reach Global Competitiveness

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China has allocated 600 million yuan ($89 million) to launch dozens of robotics projects this year, a move that an expert said would promote the country's robotics and artificial intelligence technology industry and make its next generation robots more competitive.

China plans to launch 42 intelligent robotics programs this year, according to the application guidelines issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

While the guidelines require the projects to be completed in five years, there is no mention of oversight. 

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"Overall, China's robotics industry is still in its initial stage. In the industrial application field, China's robotics remains in the middle-to-low end," Luo Jun, CEO of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The timely fund together with private investment will hopefully promote China's robotics as well as artificial intelligence (AI) technology to make next generation robots more competitive, since the industry is a relatively new one, Luo added.

Projects qualified for funding should focus on industrial robotics research and service, robots and robotics for special environments, the guidelines said.

It also said that private companies or hospitals which propose robotics projects should match the amount the government will provide. And for application projects, companies will be required to put up twice as much as the government.

The development of the robotics industry is an integral part of the "Made in China 2025" strategy, which seeks to extend its manufacturing base to high-tech industries such as aerospace equipment, new energy vehicles and robotics, news site reported.

Such development will also serve the country's space exploration agenda, as the robots with mature AI technology can perform better than humans in space, on the moon or in other planets, Luo said.

The National Manufacturing Strategy Advisory Committee said it predicts that more than 150,000 industrial robots will be sold in China by 2020, with more than 800,000 in service. The committee added that the industry will be worth tens of billions of yuan and will be globally competitive, news site reported on Wednesday. 

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In order to make sure the money will be well spent to boost the development of robotics, an oversight system should be introduced, Luo said, adding that "the research body which gets the funds should make public its annual plans, and that if the work fails, an accountability mechanism should be in place."

This article was originally written by Deng Xiaoci in The Global Times.

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