Industry 4.0: China moves into the fast lane

Industry 4.0: China moves into the fast lane
Foto: Bernd Müller, ©Fraunhofer IAO/traffic_analyzer -iStock


Fraunhofer IAO patent analysis shows China’s lead in industry 4.0

Part of Fraunhofer IAO’s China TechWatch research project involves analyzing developments in Chinese technology. The project’s first white paper reveals that China is way out in front when it comes to patents for the basic technologies needed for industry 4.0. Purely in terms of the number of patents filed, China has now far outstripped the United States and Germany.

In March of this year, the Chinese government announced a new strategic program – Made in China 2025. This should grab the attention of local industry, since the national action plan is aimed specifically at promoting industry 4.0 technologies. China has been working hard on the technologies that underpin the fourth industrial revolution for years now. Since 2013, Chinese inventors have filed over 2500 patents in this field, putting China way ahead of the United States (1065 patents) and Germany (441).

China TechWatch provides input for technology and sales strategy

But by itself, the number of patents China has filed doesn’t tell us all that much about the country’s real innovative power. Experts estimate that only around 35 percent will actually meet the criteria for patentability. The challenge facing Western companies is to identify high-quality inventions without spending undue time and money. “A detailed analysis of Chinese patents serves two purposes. First, it allows us to develop suitable competitive strategies and even workaround solutions should we need them. Second, patent documents contain important information about the future technology requirements of Chinese companies, which we should factor into our sales strategies,” says Truong Le, a patent and innovation expert at Fraunhofer IAO. As part of its China TechWatch research project, the institute has developed new, partly automated methods of analyzing the quality of Chinese patents and the technology competence of Chinese players.

Studies shed light on Chinese technology activities

Fraunhofer IAO will use these methods to compile a four-part study entitled “Industry 4.0 – current developments in China,” to be released over the next twelve months. The first part is devoted to patent analysis and shows in detail how China is not only ahead in terms of the number of patents, but has also developed highly innovative inventions. This is especially the case when it comes to energy-efficient wireless sensor networks and network structures – areas in which Chinese research institutions are making remarkable progress. Part one of the study can be downloaded as a white paper free of charge.

In parallel to this study, Fraunhofer IAO will be publishing a digital technology study entitled “Chinese Industry 4.0 Patents” in twice-yearly installments starting in June 2015. This study will evaluate some 1000 Chinese patents and examine the quality of the technology in the 50 most important Chinese patent publications for a six-month period, with the information translated and summarized in easy-to-follow profiles. The technology study can be ordered through the contacts listed below and costs 2000 euros. Installments will be dispatched on June 15 and December 15.