The COVID-19 pandemic has impeded business worldwide, but robotics research, development, and commercialization have continued through the summer. In August 2020, companies working on autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, and healthcare systems continued to receive significant investment.
In August 2020, Robotics Business Review tracked 50 transactions worth a total of $2.3 billion (U.S.). In comparison, there were 47 deals worth about $1.9 billion in July 2020, and 43 transactions worth $2 billion in August 2019. As with last month, there was not a significant change year over year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite a 33% decline in global venture funding last month, according to Crunchbase, supply chain automation, aerial drones, and agricultural and service robot companies also received funding in August 2020. Chinese industrial investment increased to $7.63 billion in the second quarter, said GlobalData.
Investors remain bullish, even if global markets have contracted 18% for robotics, 8% for machine vision, and 6% for motion control in the past year, reported the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and ITR Economics. A3 expressed optimism for the latter half of 2020.
Of this past month’s reported transactions, there were 43 investments, compared with 42 last month and a few more than 38 a year ago. In Q2, technology deals totaled $17.6 billion, according to GlobalDeals.
Related content: June 2020 transactions and top 10 robotics deals from the first half of the year; The Robot Report Podcast: First-half 2020 highlights
The table below lists robotics fundings from the past month in millions of U.S. dollars where figures were available:
Robotics Investments August 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Investor, partner||Date||Technology|
|Aero Enterprise||Series A||Buss Group||Aug. 20||drone inspection|
|AIDriving||14.41||Series C||SBI Group||Aug. 13||driver assistance|
|Angstrong||Series A||Aug. 15||sensors|
|Attabotics Inc.||50||Series C||Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan Board||Aug. 18||automated storage and retrieval|
|Blue Ocean Robotics ApS||19.25||investment||Aug. 1||development|
|Changsha Intelligent Driving Institute||14.5||Series A||Sanze Venture Capital||Aug. 20||autonomous vehicles|
|Cimcorp||investment||Alimerka||Aug. 25||industrial automation|
|Curve Intelligent Equipment||Series A||Qianhai Ark Asset Management||Aug. 21||spraying, painting robots|
|Drone Defence||0.652||seed||Scientel Solutions||Aug. 18||drone defense|
|DroneShield||post-IPO||Aug. 6||drone defense|
|Easy Aerial||6.15||Series A||Aug. 25||aerial drones|
|Fox Robotics||9||Series A||Menlo Ventures||Aug. 25||self-driving forklifts|
|HachiBot||pre-A||Northern Light Venture Capital||Aug. 21||quadruped social robot|
|HoloMatic||Series A||NavInfo||Aug. 27||autonomous vehicles|
|Hoverfly||10.7||Series B||Aug. 17||tethered drones|
|Independent Robotics||seed||Innovobot||Aug. 5||underwater robot|
|Ispace Inc.||28||Series B||IF SPV 1st Investment Partnership||Aug. 20||lunar lander|
|LightWare LiDAR||1.5||seed||Sanari Capital||Aug. 18||sensors|
|Luxelare||0.338||seed||Aug. 13||drones and software|
|Matrixtime Robotics||15.8||Series A||Hunan High-tech Venture Capital||Aug. 18||AI, machine vision|
|Milebot||Series A||Lenovo Venture Capital||Aug. 26||exoskeletons|
|NextStep Robotics||0.5||investment||Maryland Momentum Fund, Abell Foundation||Aug. 4||assistive device|
|OpenTrons Labworks Inc.||20.6||Series A||Aug. 25||laboratory automation|
|Orca Technologies||1.4||Series A||Turing AI Institute||Aug. 5||marine robots|
|Procept BioRobotics||77||Series C||Aug. 14||robotic surgery|
|Pudu Technology Inc.||14.5||Series B||Sequoia Capital China||Aug. 20||moble robots|
|Raptor Maps||5||Series C||Blue Bear Capital, Data Point Capital, Buoyant Ventures||Aug. 26||drone data|
|Reliable Robotics Corp.||33.5||investment||Lightspeed Ventures, Eclipse Partnrs||Aug. 27||autonomous aircraft|
|ROEQ||investment||VakstPartner Kapital||Aug. 11||mobile robot accessories|
|Rokae||14.4||Series C||Xiang He Capital||Aug. 19||robotic arms|
|Root AI||7.2||seed||PJC||Aug. 13||harvesting robot|
|Shanghai SK Automation Technology||105||IPO||STAR Market||Aug. 11||industrial automation|
|Shenzhen ExcelLand Technology Co.||investment||Huazhu Group, BTG Homeinns Hotels Group||Aug. 18||hospitality robots|
|StreetLight Data Inc.||15||Series D||Macquarie Capital, Actvate Capital||Aug. 6||mobile data analytics|
|Syntiant Corp.||35||Series C||M12, Applied Ventures LLC||Aug. 4||AI edge processing|
|Tier IV||92.3||Series B||Sompo Holdings||Aug. 27||autonomous vehicles|
|Tinamu Labs||1.21||seed||Alpana Ventures||Aug. 25||drone controller|
|Vicarious Surgical||13.2||investment||E15 Capital||Aug. 7||surgical robots|
|WAKU Robotics||1.18||investment||Plug and Play, TGFS||Aug. 12||mobile robots|
|Xiaopeng Motors Technology Co.||1500||IPO||Aug. 21||autonomous vehicles|
|XTEK Ltd.||12||post-IPO||Aug. 10||drones|
|XYZ Robotics Inc.||20||Series A+||Source Code Capital||Aug. 24||piece picking|
There were seven robotics mergers and acquisitions worth about $180 million in August 2020, compared with six acquisitions (with no amounts disclosed) in July and six worth $1.3 billion in 2019.
Robotics Acquisitions, August 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|Aeolus Robotics Corp.||10||GigaMedia Ltd.||Aug. 31||AI-enabled service robots|
|Ascent Vision Technologies LLC||CACI International Inc.||Aug. 12||gimbal systems|
|Finetune||Clobotics||Aug. 18||drone turbine monitoring|
|Jetbrain||Solaris||Aug. 4||mobile robots|
|Luminar Technologies Inc.||170||Gores Metropoulos Inc.||Aug. 24||lidar hardware, software|
|Solution Net Systems||Architect Equity||Aug. 5||industrial automation|
|Voxtel Inc.||Allegro MicroSystems||Aug. 31||lidar hardware, software|
Autonomous vehicle deals keep rolling in August 2020
Autonomous vehicle companies raised more than $1.6 billion in August 2020. The largest single transaction of the month was the $1.5 billion initial public offering (IPO) for Xiaopeng Motors Technology Co. Guangzhou, China-based Xpeng raised $500 million in Series C funding in July and plans to use its funding to expand research and development.
Some transportation transactions in August 2020 involved partnerships. Luminar Technologies Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., conducted a reverse merger with Gores Metropoulos Inc. and raised $170 million for its “full stack” of software for autonomous trucks and passenger vehicles. Insurer Sompo Holdings acquired an 18% stake worth $92 million in Nagoya, Japan-based self-driving software developer Tier IV.
Bridging the gap between drones and autonomous vehicles, Mountain View, Calif.-based Reliable Robotics Corp. emerged from “stealth mode” and raised $33.5 million for fully autonomous aircraft.
Back on the ground, San Francisco-based StreetLight Data Inc. obtained $15 million in Series D funding for smart-city data analytics meant to work with autonomous vehicles. Changsha Intelligent Driving Institute in China received Series D funding of $14.5 million for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) for trucks.
Shenzhen, China-based AIDriving’s Series C round raised $14.41 million as it develops algorithms for ADAS and artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) systems.
Beijing-based HoloMatic got an unspecified amount in Series A+ funding led by NavInfo as it works on autonomous systems for driving and parking. Also in August 2020, Allegro MicroSystems acquired Voxtel Inc., a Beaverton, Ore.-based company that makes lidar software and hardware for ADAS.
China leads in industrial automation investment
In August 2020, robotics suppliers to manufacturers raised more than $119 million, and supply chain automation companies raised $80 million. Shanghai SK Automation Technology, which serves automakers, raised $105 million in its IPO on the STAR Market.
Beijing-based robotic arm maker Rokae raised $14.4 million in Series C funding, and Curve Intelligent Equipment, a spraying and painting robot provider also in Beijing, raised an unspecified Series A.
On the logistics and warehousing side, Calgary, Alberta-based Attabotics Inc. raised $50 million in Series C funding for its automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). Allston, Mass.-based XYZ Robotics Inc., which has developed vision systems and end effectors for piece picking, received $20 million in Series A+ funding.
Spanish grocery retailer Alimerka invested an unspecified amount in automation and support from Ulvilaa, Finland-based Cimcorp. Funen, Denmark-based ROEQ, which provides accessories for robots such as those from Mobile Industrial Robots ApS, raised an unspecified amount in August 2020.
Architect Equity acquired a majority share of Solution Net Systems, a logistics automation firm in Quakertown, Pa.
Healthcare firms find funding to bring robots to market
A variety of healthcare robotics companies raised more than $111 million in August 2020, led by the $77 million Series C round for Procept BioRobotics in Redwood Shores, Calif. It has developed “aquablation” therapy for enlarged prostates.
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based laboratory automation provider OpenTrons Labworks Inc. raised $20.6 million in Series A funding last month. Boston-based Vicarious Surgical received $13.2 million as it continues working to commercialize virtual reality and robotics systems.
Baltimore-based NextStep Robotics raised $500,000 for its wearable device, which is designed to assist patients while walking. Also in wearables, Shenzhen-based Milebot raised an unspecified Series A round as it develops exoskeletons.
Also in August 2020, Solaris Disinfection Inc. acquired Jetbrain Robotics for an unspecified amount. Gurgaon, India-based Jetbrain makes mobile robots for delivering supplies in hospitals that will join Solaris’ disinfection robot portfolio. Capsa Healthcare acquired Dutch pharmacy automation provider RoboPharma. No purchase price was specified.
Robots components and AI key to commercial success
To be commercially successful, robotic and artificial intelligence systems need reliable sensors, processors, and motors. Component makers raised $52.3 million in August 2020. Irvine, Calif.-based Syntiant Corp. raised $35 million in Series C funding for AI edge processing.
Shanghai-based Matrixtiime Robotics raised $15.8 million in Series A funding for machine vision software and industrial AI.
LightWare LiDAR in Gauteng, South Africa, collected seed funding of $1.5 million, and Angstrong in Shenzhen raised an unspecified Series A. Durham, U.K.-based Wootzano, which makes “electronic skin” sensors for robots, obtained debt financing from HSBC.
CACI International Inc. acquired Ascent Vision Technologies LLC, a Belgrade, Mont.-based provider of systems for mounting cameras on drones or robots.
Robots for air, water, and space get ready for launch
As summer wound down in the Northern Hemisphere, investors supported drones for agriculture, energy and utilities, and security applications. Boston-based Root AI, which is working on the Virgo robotic harvester, raised $7.2 million in seed funding.
Security drones received more than $37 million in August 2020, led by Canberra, Australia-based XTEK Ltd., which raised $12 million. Orlando, Fla.-based Hoverfly raised $10.7 million in Series B funding for its tethered drones, and Easy Aerial in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised Series A funding of $6.15 million for its autonomous drones.
In aerospace, Tokyo-based Ispace received $28 million in Series B funding for its robotic lunar lander, not to be confused with Beijing-based iSpace, which raised $172 million for commercial rocket launches and is beyond the scope of this report.
Drone countermeasures also received investment, with Herndon, Va.-based Drone Shield getting $7.5 million in post-IPO funding, and Doncaster, U.K.-based Drone Defence raising $652,000 in seed funding.
In power, Somerville, Mass.-based Raptor Maps, which is building analytics software for the solar industry, secured $5 million in Series C funding. Clobotics acquired Danish turbine monitoring provider Finetune for an unspecified amount.
Also in energy, Montreal-based Independent Robotics raised unnamed seed funding for its robots for underwater exploration, and San Clemente, Calif.-based marine robotics company Orca Technologies got $1.4 million in Series A funding.
Tinamu Labs in Zurich received seed funding of $1.21 million as it develops a drone controller for infrastructure inspection in GPS-denied environments. Aero Enterprise in Linz, Austria, got unspecified Series A funding for its inspection drones.
Luxelare, an agricultural drone and software firm in Los Mochis, Mexico, raised $338,000 in seed funding to qualify for crowdfunding.
Service robots round out August 2020
Finally, service robot companies rounded out summer 2020 transactions. “Venture factory” Blue Ocean Robotics ApS, whose spinoffs include disinfection robot maker UVD Robots, raised $19.25 million. Odense, Denmark-based Blue Ocean also completed its acquisition of the assets of Suitable Technologies, provider of the Beam telepresence robot.
Shenzhen-based Pudu Technology Inc., which makes mobile robots for restaurants and hospitals, raised Series B+ financing of close to $15 million, just a month after raising a similar amount. GigaMedia Ltd. acquired San Francisco-based service robot firm Aeolus Robotics Corp. with a debt conversion.
Editors’ note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify them with some degree of rigor. To make investment analyses consistent, repeatable, and valuable, it is critical to wring out as much subjectivity as possible during the evaluation process. This begins with a definition of terms and a description of assumptions.
Investors and investing
Investment should come from venture capital firms, corporate investment groups, angel investors, and other sources. Friends-and-family investments, government/non-governmental agency grants, and crowd-sourced funding are excluded.
Robotics and intelligent systems companies
Robotics companies must generate or expect to generate revenue from the production of robotics products (that sense, analyze, and act in the physical world), hardware or software subsystems and enabling technologies for robots, or services supporting robotics devices. For this analysis, autonomous vehicles (including technologies that support autonomous driving) and drones are considered robots, while 3D printers, CNC systems, and various types of “hard” automation are not.
Companies that are “robotic” in name only, or use the term “robot” to describe products and services that that do not enable or support devices acting in the physical world, are excluded. For example, this includes “software robots” and robotic process automation. Many firms have multiple locations in different countries. Company locations given in the analysis are based on the publicly listed headquarters in legal documents, press releases, etc.
Funding information is collected from a number of public and private sources. These include press releases from corporations and investment groups, corporate briefings, industry analysts, and association and industry publications, including PitchBook and Tracxn. In addition, information comes from sessions at conferences and seminars, as well as during private interviews with industry representatives, investors, and others. Unverifiable investments are excluded.
About the author:
Eugene Demaitre is senior editor at The Robot Report and Robotics Business Review. Prior to working at WTWH Media, he was an editor at BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, TechTarget, and EH Media. Demaitre has participated in robotics webcasts, podcasts, and conferences worldwide. He has a master’s from the George Washington University and lives in the Boston area.