The first thing that comes to mind when discussing the robotics sector in Saudi Arabia is the by-now famous android, ‘Sarah’. It was the first Saudi robot manufactured worldwide that speaks the Saudi dialect. It can answer questions through its programming, which enables it to recognize words and take the appropriate response.
The android made its first appearance at the LEAP 2023 conference that took place in Riyadh last February. It was manufactured in cooperation between the Saudi Digital Government Authority and Quality Support Solutions (QSS). This is an indication of the Kingdom’s increasing interest in robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies in recent years. It is also part of Saudi’s broader strategy to raise the volume of targeted investments in the AI sector to SAR80 billion by 2030.
Robotics in the public and private sectors
As part of its diversification efforts, the kingdom seeks to increase the number of data and AI companies to 400 by 2030. Additionally, government agencies, such as the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI), have adopted the use of robotics and AI technologies. GOSI recently announced the launch of the “Digital Human” initiative, which facilitates services for the organization’s clients and subscribers.
In addition, the private sector has also started leveraging robotics in its operations. According to a Kaspersky survey, 31 percent of Saudi citizens confirmed that their organizations use robots. Meanwhile, 41 percent reported that their organizations plan to use them in the near future. Also, 74 percent of employees in Saudi Arabia believe that implementing robots in various sectors is important. However, they expressed their concerns regarding cybersecurity and hacking incidents. Additionally, surveyed employees confirmed the increased level of reliance on robots in their organizations over the past two years.
Growth of the robotics industry
The Saudi robotics sector has achieved a 52 percent growth in commercial registrations issued during the second quarter of 2023. The number of registrations issued increased from 1,537 to 2,344 in the last year.
According to the Ministry of Commerce bulletin, Riyadh issued the highest number of commercial registrations at 1,387. Mecca follows with 491 registrations. The eastern province issued 269 commercial registrations while Medina issued 76. Finally, Al-Qassim issued 32 commercial registrations.
In addition to cybersecurity, AI, and logistics services, Saudi Vision 2030 emphasizes the importance of the robotics sector. It also focuses on creating opportunities in other sectors such as arts and entertainment, travel, tourism, and business conferences. These are some of the sectors witnessing record growth. They provide local and foreign businesses with opportunities for the development and expansion of their partnerships.
National Center for Robotics Technology and Intelligent Systems
The National Center for Robotics Technology and Intelligent Systems plays a major role in the robotics industry in Saudi Arabia. The research center, affiliated with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, aims to localize robot technology. It also seeks to enrich applied scientific research activities under the umbrella of research and development. Through these efforts, the center will benefit from technology transfer and localization projects, which will in turn contribute to supporting the Kingdom’s strategic needs. In addition, it will also help boost the national economy across a wide range of industries, including the civil, military, medical, and educational sectors.
The center has three main units for robotics research:
- Laboratories and equipment unit: The unit aims to establish specialized laboratories to support applied research by researchers specialized in this field. It provides technical and logistical support to researchers to serve applied research in this field. Additionally, it aids in designing and manufacturing models of various robot systems and testing their efficiency.
- Research and development unit: The unit conducts scientific and technical research in the field of robots and smart systems to serve applications. It works on transferring and localizing modern technologies in the field of robots and smart systems in the Kingdom. It Encourages cooperation between the center and local and international universities and links the needs of relevant parties.
- Services and consultations unit: The unit provides consultations and strategic studies in that field for the public and private sectors. It encourages the private sector to invest in the field. Moreover, it develops mechanisms for researchers and investors to benefit from the results of research in the field of robots and smart systems. It also works on marketing the center’s outputs to the public and private sectors. Additionally, the unit holds training programs and supports local scientific talent in schools and universities. Furthermore, it encourages cooperative programs in the field.
Saudi Arabia, a leader in using robotics technology in industry
Saudi Arabia is ranked first in the Gulf in the use of robots in the industrial field. Meanwhile, the UAE is the first to use it in the services sector. Like many other countries, Saudi Arabia is keen to use robotics to boost its growing industrial sector.
Dr. Khaled Al-Mutab, associate professor of robotics at King Saud University, recommended the use of robots in certain professions. This will help reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the quality of life. Al-Mutab’s speech came on the sidelines of the Saudi Robotics Conference and Expo. The event was organized by the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu. The three-day event took place at the King Abdullah Cultural Center, in Jubail Industrial City.
In his speech, he shed light on some interesting statistics regarding the growth of the robotics sector. He stated that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the robotics sector in Saudi Arabia since reached 17 percent. Additionally, the market value of the robotics sector will exceed $320 billion by 2030.
On the other hand, Dr. Al-Mutab also highlighted the associated risks of using robotics, According to the professor, there a possibility of losing three million workers as a result of robotics being increasingly used in industry.
Meanwhile, Engineer Faisal Al-Khalidi, director of the National Digital Transformation Unit, said that it is seeking to help the government and private sectors to develop a unified national vision that places the Kingdom at the forefront of digital technology.
He stated that for Saudi Arabia, digital transformation is closely related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Among its digital transformation projects include increasing the number of industrial sensors to 50 billion by 2025. Additionally, the rapid expansion of computational power has played a major role over the past decade in transforming the kingdom’s industrial sector. Its digitalization efforts has also resulted in an increase of industrial robots used in the Kingdom by 63 percent between 2015 and 2019.
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