IFR President’s Report by Milton Guerry

The COVID-19 pandemic presented both a challenge and an opportunity to the robotics industry. The electronics industry strongly benefited from the transition to work from home and the push in digitisation, thus heavily investing in robots and automation. Regionally, declining figures in Europe and in the Americas were compensated by growth in Asia.

Milton Guerry

Robotics have proven to be key for organisations requiring the flexibility to quickly adapt production and respond to changes in demand as well as smaller batch sizes. The benefits of increased productivity safeguards jobs by keeping companies competitive. The outlook for the robotics industry is optimistic. OECD projects global GDP growth to be 5.5 % in 2021 and 4 % in 2022.

Robotics and Automation increase economic competitiveness, enable technology development through advancing manufacturing capability and reduce our carbon footprint with localized production. Individuals, companies and countries recognize the roles robotics and automation are playing and welcome their future potential, which – at least to a certain extent – will hinge on developments like Artificial Intelligence (AI) for robotics. Not without certain concern does the global robotics industry looks at the proposed European Artificial Intelligence Act. What impact will it have on our economy and the automation industry?

While lawful, safe, and trustworthy AI applications are imperative, we are alarmed that this future piece of legislation may hamper innovation. Ensuring legal certainty for investments and creating acceptance for new technologies certainly will help our industry. On the other hand, we are concerned that the role of “unpredictable AI” in industrial applications is overemphasized and overestimated, leading to disproportionate barriers and huge administrative burdens. This could result in a lack of competitiveness and sustainability for the European manufacturing industry and society at large.

The opportunity for leadership is once again in front of our industry. Responsible and transparent development will promote reassurance of the intent for good. IFR is working on a joint position of the global robotics industry to support its members to start the dialogue with the legislators. Reach out to the IFR secretariat to learn more.

Stay safe, and all the best to you.