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Global Robotics Industry

Is Japan still a manufacturing powerhouse? Recently, an internship student from the U.S. spent two months in our laboratory and joined the research team of which I am the representative. Although he was a fourth-year undergraduate student, he was able to draw the mechanism he envisioned, select the components and motors, write the program, and implement the hardware almost all by himself. I wonder how many undergraduate students, or even graduate students, in Japan today are capable of doing all of this on their own.

 According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's 2019 report "Environmental Changes Surrounding Robots and Future Direction of Policies - Plan for Promoting Social Transformation through Robots," (1) the number of industrial robots sold worldwide doubled in the five years from 2013 to 2017, and is expected to increase by an average of 14% per year in the future. (1) reported that global industrial robot sales doubled in the five years from 2013 to 2017 and are expected to continue to grow by an average of 14% per year. Furthermore, Japan is the world's largest robot producer, with a share of just under 60% of the world's robots sold (210,000 of the approximately 380,000 robots sold were made by Japanese manufacturers).

 This alone suggests that Japan is not yet abandoned, but the share of Japanese-made robots, which was close to 90% until around 2000, has been declining year by year. In particular, with new companies entering the market one after another around the world in recent years, it is unclear whether Japan will be able to continue to compete at the forefront of the industry in the future. The report concludes with the following statement as a basic idea for future robot policy: "The most important issue for Japan is to continue to promote the implementation of robots in society. Although Japan is an advanced country in terms of issues and has several robot manufacturers, it ranks fourth in the world in terms of the density of robot introduction. We need to drastically strengthen our efforts and strongly promote the introduction of robots to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which have been slow to adopt robots," the report states.

 I also make an effort to have students experience the entire process of manufacturing, but it is necessary for universities to think about this so that Japan can proudly say that it will continue to be a manufacturing powerhouse in the future.

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