After taking over German robotics firm Kuka, Chinese home appliance giant Midea Group is turning the European company into a global service provider for smart manufacturing.
At the 2017 China (Guangdong)--Europe Investment and Innovation Cooperation Conference held in Foshan City this week, Gu Yanmin, vice president of Midea, said more advanced mobile robots were being developed so Kuka's industrial robots could be applied in more complicated production scenarios.
"More Chinese technologies have been introduced to the European market. The two-way technology exchange is replacing the previous one-way technology imports from Europe to China," Gu said.
Midea has nine research and development centers in China, and the number of such centers overseas has topped 11. The latest is located in Graz, Austria, and aims to provide technology for home appliance development to the European market.
Jonathan Schoo, China director at Germany Trade and Invest and a conference attendee, said more Chinese companies have invested in the high-tech field in Germany, while German companies have reinforced their investment in China.
"Joint R&D projects in the high-tech field benefit both sides, and we welcome such cooperation," he said, citing a recent partnership between Guangdong Biolight Meditech Company with its German counterpart in establishing an R&D center in northern Germany.
"From Germany's traditional dominant fields such as automobiles, engineering, machinery and transportation, to emerging areas including environmental protection and new energy, cooperation between the two countries is increasing," he said.
Chinese companies have been pouring resources into research and innovation over the years and led the world in certain fields, which is the primary cause of the technical exchange reverse, said Mats Harborn, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
"European companies used to invest in China for its cheap labor force, but now they come to acquire new technologies," he said.
Official data showed that in Guangdong Province, China's manufacturing hub, R&D investment accounted for 2.58 percent of the total output value in 2016, which was close to the level of developed countries. The southern province has nurtured world-class factories in some emerging industries such as drones, intelligent robots and OLED.
Thomas Schmitz, president of Andritz (China) Ltd., said his company has built a close relationship with local scientific research institutions and invested 3 percent of its revenue in R&D.
Andritz has over 200 employees in China engaged in research and new products design. They completed 155 research projects and obtained 34 patents over the past three years. The company co-developed a new system for garbage disposal and recycling with a local Guangdong company.
"Guangdong is no longer a place for low-end trade or a world factory for cheap digital products," he said.
Exchange of scientific research staff has also become more frequent. China has signed many cooperative agreements with universities and research institutions in Germany, France, Britain and other European countries.
Chinese companies have the advantage of market model innovation, while their European partners lead in industrial manufacturing technologies, according to Liu Chang from the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. "Those advantages are also the direction for cooperation by the two sides," said Liu.