PIF, SoftBank to launch robotic systems initiative


RIYADH – The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) is preparing to launch a world-leading joint robotics initiative with SoftBank Group Corp. (SoftBank) to explore how robotic systems can be better incorporated into the daily activities and tasks of the government sector, business and society.

Over the coming months, PIF and SoftBank will be establishing partnerships with major global institutions, across the private and academic sector with experts, governmental and non-governmental organizations to create a platform for driving forward the autonomous robotics industry.

While robots now represent 0.7% of the global industrial workforce by 69 robots per 10,000 employees, there is currently no international agreement on the methodology for measuring the continued growth of the global robotics population, an issue which will be addressed as part of this initiative.

As worldwide spending on robotics and related services is set to increase more than double by 2020 (from over $90 billion in 2016 to an estimated $188 billion in 2020), so it is essential to ensure there are robust and standardized methods for measuring productivity and investment returns in this field.

The project will explore the development of standardized measurements for robot power, performance and intelligence.

The ongoing evolution and adoption of autonomous environments has the potential to foster significant economic and social well-being, but also holds the power to affect a range of changes that humanity will need to be prepared for.

Global regulation will need to be evolved and it is essential to build better understanding of the impact on social well-being, work environments across different sectors and future job markets.

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense and chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) and chairman of PIF commented: “Technology forms an integral part of achieving Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and this project reflects the Kingdom’s ambition to play an important role in helping to shape the future of the robotics sector. We are delighted to be partnering with SoftBank, already a global leader in the robotics industry, on this initiative.”

Masayoshi Son, chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., said: “The real world applications of robotics industry are rapidly moving from theory to reality, and this shift is creating a pressing need to improve, future-proof and standardize areas relating to regulation and measurement. By taking a leadership role, Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly support its own efforts to diversify and modernize its economy.”

The partnership with SoftBank builds on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between PIF and SoftBank in October 2016 in relation to the SoftBank Vision Fund. – SPA