Intelligent manufacturing, virtualization, smart processes and the internet of things: Important elements of this strategy look like a direct copy of Germany’s Industry 4.0 concept. However, there are also important differences compared to this Euopean initiative, industry experts explain:
- Size and type of companies: While SMEs with a deep-rooted innovation culture are the backbone of the European industry, state-owned companies are the decisive factor of China’s industrial policy.
- While China claimed the title of the exports world champion in 2009, it is still lagging behind “traditional” industrial nations. While Western companies find themself in the transition from the third phase of the industrial revolution (the phase of automation) to the fourth, a significant part of Chinese companies are still entering the third phase.
- For implementing “Made in China 2025”, the economy must master two challenges simultaneously: Making the shift to the fourth industry generation while compensating for the old production methods and overcapacities of the boom years. To do this, the government has launched the “Internet Plus” program which is supposed to connect industrial production and digitalisation. The people responsible especially view the mobile internet, cloud based technologies, big data or the internet of things.
- China must focus on education and specialists than before if it wants to keep up with the future technology. The country has already invested big sums in education, but many universities are still oriented towards a work intensive industry based on the model of the 70’s, explains Aihua. “If we want industry 4.0, we need the talented technicians who can move freely in the digital world”, says the expert.
Even though there are some differences between the Chinese situation and comparable programs in other countries, Aihua sees common interest and opportunity for cooperation. “China’s industry is changing. New goals are being set, not just because of the new five year plan and for that new technologies and innovative ideas are required”, says Thomas Scheuring, managing director of Dechema, the organiser of the AchemAsia trade fair and expo, about his experiences in China.
New Ways for Engineering
But how can China, a country that looks monotonous and streamlined in the eyes of westeners, become a driver of innovation of the world economy? The recipe for the change: Exchange of knowledge between research and industry, better support by government institutions and targeted investments in so called “core technologies” (such as carbon fibre, electrochemical materials and material for 3D printing).
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