Public investment by our peers

Australia must urgently invest in robotics capability if it is to remain competitive on the world stage. Most of our economic peer countries, including the United States of America (USA), China, Korea, Europe, Singapore and Japan, are making significant national investments in robotics.

In the USA, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) National Robotics Initiative was funded for $US100 million per year over 5 years. Version 2.0 has a similar investment split across different USA government agencies ($US40 million from the NSF and similar amounts from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Energy (DOE), and Department of Defense (DOD)). Canada has recently invested $US125 million in a fundamental Artificial Intelligence (AI) research institute and has the stated aim of further investing in high-value, innovative, creative, ground-breaking areas such as robotics. The Chinese government is investing $US100 billion in robotics to ensure the country can supply its own industrial robots, with an aim to be producing 100,000 industrial robots per year by 2020. By the end of 2018, China will have purchased two-thirds of the world’s industrial robots. Koreans are investing $US662 million in research and design in the robotics sector over the next 10 years. South Korea aims to put a robot in every South Korean household by 2020 [NGN06], and to expand the country’s production of industrial robotics to be worth more than $US6 billion by 2022 [RAN18]. In the EU, ‘Horizon 2020’ has invested in robotics over 7 years (2014-2020) together with investments by individual European nations.

Australia has a similar opportunity as these competitors but must act swiftly to define ambitious goals, and secure and build robotics capability. Australia’s National Science Statement [NSS17] supports the development of:

“national aspirations … ambitions and goals for Australian science.”

The Innovation and Science Australia 2030 plan [ISA17 – p16] notes that Australia has a head-start in many of these technologies from substantial public and private investment, and that this has resulted in geographically concentrated hubs involving both research organisations and ‘tech giants’ (Recommendations 2 & 12).