Singapore has topped the list of cities from around the world in terms of attractiveness for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics investors. The city-state has a strong record of attracting investment in a wide range of industries pertaining to robotics and AI, including in semiconductors and other electronic equipment, where the city welcomed 22 projects between 2013 and 2017 – the highest of all 71 locations analysed.

In October 2017, US-based computer process manufacturer Nvidia announced plans to establish an AI lab at Singapore’s University of Technology and Design. Germany-based Infineon Technologies’ decision to open a global analytics centre in Singapore came partly as the result of efforts from the Economic Development Board of Singapore. The agency is charged with economic development and promotes Singapore as a test bed for products of the future.


Singapore is second only to Dubai in terms of FDI and technology transfer, which measures the extent to which FDI brings new technology to a location, and according to data from fDi Benchmark, almost half of all manufacturing exports from the city-state in 2015 were high-tech exports, the highest percentage of all cities studied.

Hi-tech exports 2015

Shanghai leads China charge

Shanghai ranks second for AI and robotics investment, attracting high levels of investment in general purpose machinery, measuring and control instruments and metalworking machinery subsectors. US-based iRobot, which provides robotic solutions, established its Chinese headquarters in the city, as part of its strategy for the country.

Shanghai is home to the annual Chinese International Robot Show, testament to the city’s reputation as a destination in the huge Chinese market for robotics investment. Three of the world’s top 100 universities in engineering and technology call Shanghai home, according to data from Times Higher Education. This was the second highest number of all cities in the project, after Hong Kong, which boasts five.

Dubai, on the north-eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, ranks in third place. Of all locations in the analysis, Dubai has the highest level of FDI specialisation in electronic components, in ICT and electronics, and in architectural, engineering and related services. In mid-2017, the India-based World Laparoscopy Hospital opened a facility in Dubai Healthcare City (one of a plethora of free zones in the city open to investors), to provide training in robotic and laparoscopic surgery.

The city also opened its doors to the second annual Middle Eastern robotic process automation and intelligent automation forum in February 2018, which included a variety of speakers and seminars and a masterclass on robotics, automation, cognitive computing and AI.


To compile the list of locations for this study, fDi Intelligence, a data division of the Financial Times, looked at the FDI data between January 2013 and December 2017 compiled by fDi Markets. Cities with more than 20 FDI projects in several subsectors were included. Data was then collected from fDi Benchmark for the locations included and added to the weighting model.

Top 25 locations for AI