2020 was a challenging year for the robotics, automation and drone industry, both globally and for companies in Denmark, which is one of the strongest robotics clusters in the world. Nevertheless, robotic and automation companies on Funen increased the number of colleagues abroad by 26% to a total of 1,200 abroad and maintaining the status quo of 3,900 employees on Funen. Funen, the third-largest island on Denmark, is home to Odense, the third-largest city in the country.
These figures and more are published today in Odense Robotics Insight Report 2021 (PDF). The report solely examines the robotics industry on Funen because it is based on data from the former regional cluster on Funen, which as of January 1, 2021 is part of Denmark’s new national robotics and drone cluster. Going forward, Odense Robotics will gather insights for the entire robotics industry in Denmark.
Positive development amid pandemic
“2020 was an extremely challenging year for the robot, automation and drone industry on Funen,” said Mikkel Christoffersen, CEO at Odense Robotics. “The COVID-19 lockdown led to a global slowdown in manufacturing and many robotic companies’ activities were put on standby almost overnight. So it’s very positive that companies on Funen have succeeded in strengthening their global presence and in turn their opportunities to reach customers abroad – aspects that have been under considerable pressure.”
Investments in robotic companies on Funen continued at the same rate despite the pandemic. Investments of more than EUR 50 million were made last year in Funen-based robotic companies, bringing the total investment figure since 2015 to more than EUR 860 million. This strong investment trajectory indicates investors continue to foresee increasing global demand for robotics and automation and that the Odense area continues to be a strong investment magnet, with many reinvesting in the ecosystem.
Challenges and opportunities ahead
Given the wide-reaching impact of the pandemic on daily operations, it is not surprising that around 70% of companies say access to markets and qualified employees are both growth barriers. Commercial activities and daily operations have been limited as a result of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the pandemic has also brought new opportunities for the industry. Robots developed by companies in the Odense area have been deployed globally to disinfect hospitals and airports, facilitate social distancing on assembly lines, transport medicine in hospitals, enable patients in isolation to talk to doctors via telepresence. Also last year, a team of leading robotic researchers from the University of Southern Denmark developed a fully automatic throat swab robot.
Outlook for 2021
Predicting performance in 2021 is difficult, yet the figures in this report coupled with the industry’s strong global position give reason to remain conservatively optimistic. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the number of installed industrial robots is at an all-time high. The IFR forecasts increasing demand for collaborative robots and professional service robots, which are two segments where Funen-based companies have a global stronghold. For example, cobot arm leader Universal Robots and autonomous mobile robot leader Mobile Industrial Robots are both based in Odense.
“Demand for automization has never been higher and 2020 showed that robotics and automation continue to have enormous potential,” said Christoffersen. “We see a strong trend in more and more sectors adopting robotics technologies – for example healthcare, service, construction and agriculture. Here, companies on Funen have a lot to offer, so growth potential is still high – particularly when the world opens up again.”