Robotics transactions slowed this past spring, reflecting trade tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, investment and acquisition activity picked up somewhat in June 2020.
In June 2020, Robotics Business Review tracked 49 transactions worth more than $1.9 billion, compared with 20 transactions worth $1.5 billion in May 2020 and 50 robotics deals worth more than $1.1 billion in June 2019. Both last year and this year, there was a dip in May, followed by an increase in activity in June. The COVID-19 pandemic may not have affected the total amount of funding, but the trend of fewer early-stage investments has continued.
Not surprisingly, many of the largest automation transactions this past month and in the first half of 2020 were around autonomous vehicles. Chinese companies also raised a significant share of global funding so far this year, reported DealStreetAsia.
Top 10 robotics deals of the first half of 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Investor, acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|Argo AI||2600||investment||Volkswagen||June||autonomous vehicles|
|Wright Medical||2300||acquisition||Stryker||May||surgical robots|
|Waymo||2200||investment||March, May||autonomous vehicles|
|Cainiao||1300||acquisition||Alibaba Group Holding||June||supply chain|
|Zoox Inc.||1200||acquisition||Amazon.com Inc.||June||autonomous vehicles|
|Didi Chuxing||500||investment||(SoftBank acquired)||May||autonomous vehicles|
|Hydroid||350||acquisition||Huntington Ingalls||Feb.||underwater robots|
The table below lists last month’s fundings in millions of U.S. dollars, where amounts were publicly available.
Robotics investments, June 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Investor, partner||Date||Technology|
|Adaps Photonics Inc.||Series A1||Lightspeed China Partners||June 27||vision|
|Aerones SIA||1.6||seed||Change Ventures, YCombinator, Sensum Group||June 16||robotic inspection|
|Aether Biomedical||seed||Chirtae Ventures||June 24||prosthetics|
|AIMotive||20||Series C||Lead Ventures||June 22||autonomous vehicles|
|Beijing Jingwei HiRain Technologies Co.||30||Huaxing Growth Capital||June 30||autonomous vehicles|
|Beijing Tinavi Medical Technology||71||IPO||State Development & Investment Corp.||June 22||orthopedic robot|
|Bitsensing||5.8||pre-Series A||LB Investment||June 8||radar sensors|
|Botsync||seed||Wong Fong Industries, SEEDS Capital, Angelhub, Artesian Venture Partners||June 30||mobile robots|
|Boxbot||7.5||seed||Artiman Ventures||June 4||delivery robots|
|Code 42||13||seed||LIG Nex 1, KTB Network, Shinhan Bank||June 18||autonomous vehicles|
|Company Six||3||Series D||Spider Capital||June 11||first-response robots|
|Drishti Technologies Inc.||25||Series B||Sozo Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures||June 16||AI|
|DriveU.auto||4||investment||Zohar Zisapel||June 24||autonomous vehicles|
|DroneBase Inc.||7.5||Series C||Valor Equity Partners, Razi Ventures, Union Square Ventures||June 18||drone data|
|Elementary Robotics Inc.||12.7||Series A||Threshold Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures||June 30||machine learning, computer vision|
|Future Robot Shenzhen Co.||14.1||Series B||Lenovo Venture Capital, Eastern Bell Venture Capital||June 15||mobile robots|
|Geekplus Technology Co.||200||Series C||V Fund, Vertex Ventures China||?June 18||mobile robots|
|HistoSonics||40||Series C1||Yonjin Venture LLC||June 8||robotic therapy|
|Hyundai Robotics||41||investment||KT||June 16||industrial automation|
|i-KINGTECH||25||Series B||Zhongyi Mingyuan Venture Capital Management||June 2||industrial drones|
|Locomation||5.5||seed||June 22||autonomous vehicles|
|Locus Robotics Inc.||40||Series D||Zebra Ventures||June 2||mobile robots|
|OTTO Motors||29||Series C||Kensington Private Equity Fund||June 1||mobile robots|
|Peppermint||seed||Venture Catalysts||June 17||cleaning robots|
|Proprio||23||Series A||DCVC||June 17||surgical robotics|
|RIOS||5||investment||Valley Capital Partners||June 30||industrial automation|
|Robocath Inc.||43||investment||MicroPort Scientific Corp.||June 29||surgical robots|
|Shenzhen Youdi Technology||investment||Legend Capital, Convivialite Ventures||June 9||mobile robots|
|SLAMcore Ltd.||4.94||investment||Octopus Ventures, MMC Ventures||June 17||spatial AI|
|SmartMore Technology Co.||seed||IDG Capital||June 29||computer vision|
|StradVision Inc.||investment||Pegasus Tech Ventures, Aisin Group||June 16||autonomous vehicle vision|
|Suzhou AGV Robot Co.||4.38||Series A||Lenovo Venture Capital||June 24||mobile robots|
|Suzhou Muxing Inttelligent Technology||14.1||Series A||TCL Venture Capital||June 5||mobile robots|
|Third Wave Automation||15||Series A||Innovation Engineers||June 23||autonomous forklifts|
|Titan Medical Inc.||18||investment||June 9||surgical robots|
|TXMR Sdn Bhd||1.17||investment||VentureTECH Sdn Bhd||June 18||industrial automation|
|Venus Concept Inc.||31||investment||Lincoln Park Capital Fund LLC||June 16||surgical robots|
|VisionNav Robotics Co.||14.25||Series B1||Lenovo Capital||June 21||vision-guided forklifts|
|Wandelbotics GmbH||30||Series B||83North||June 16||robot programming|
|WiBotic Inc.||5.7||Series A||Junson Capital, Rolling Bay Ventures||June 11||wireless charging|
|Yunjing Intelligence Technology Co.||Series C||Sequoia Capital China||June 23||cleaning robots|
There were seven robotics mergers and acquisitions in June 2020, compared with only one in May and eight last June. Although no robotics, drone, artificial intelligence, or autonomous vehicle companies shut down completely last month, several had layoffs or sought Paycheck Protection Program funds.
Robotics acquisitions, June 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|Astyx GmbH||Cruise||June 3||self-driving car sensors|
|Compass Automation||Tesla||June 4||nidustrial automation|
|Made in Space Inc.||Redwire||June 23||space robots|
|Marble Robot Inc.||Caterpillar Inc.||June 17||autonomous vehicle vision|
|MueTec Automated Microscopy and Messtechnik GmbH||20.5||Tztek Technology Co.||June 22||industrial automation|
|Zhuhai RHK Healthcare||Fourier Intelligence||June 1||exoskeletons, rehab|
|Zoox Inc.||1200||Amazon.com Inc.||June 26||autonomous vehicles|
Amazon merges into autonomous vehicle race
The largest single robotics transaction of June 2020 was Amazon.com Inc.‘s acquisition of Zoox Inc., which is building a zero-emissions vehicle with a full autonomy software stack. Cruise LLC was also interested in the Foster City, Calif.-based robotaxi startup. Although Amazon didn’t specify how much it paid for Zoox, sources told the Financial Times that it spent more than $1.2 billion.
Chinese smart vehicle developer Beijing Jingwei HiRain Technologies Co. raised $30 million in June 2020, while Budapest, Hungary-based autonomous and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) developer AImotive raised $20 million in Series C funding.
On-demand autonomous transportation provider Code 42 in Gangnam, South Korea, obtained $13 million in seed funding. Pittsburgh-based Locomation, which is developing “human-guided” autonomous trucks, had a $5.5 million seed round.
DriveU.auto, a startup in Kfra Saba, Israel, building a teleoperation connectivity platform for semi-autonomous vehicle operation, raised $4 million in June 2020. Seoul-based StradVision received a strategic investment from global automotive supplier Aisin Siki Co. for its vision-processing software for autonomous vehicles.
Not to be left out, General Motors Co. spinoff Cruise reportedly acquired Ottobrunn, Germany-based radar maker Astyx GmbH. Also, Tesla Inc. acquired Compass Automation, a manufacturing automation design firm in Elgin, Ill. Amounts were not specified.
A bit more public was Caterpillar Inc.’s purchase of San Francisco-based Marble Robot Inc. for autonomous mining and construction vehicles.
Supply chain automation picks up funding
Logistics and supply chain automation providers raised a total of $338 million in June 2020, led by the $200 million Series C round for Beijing-based Geekplus Technology Co. PitchBook noted that first-quarter investments in warehouse robotics startups surged in the first quarter.
Wilmington, Mass.-based autonomous mobile robot (AMR) maker Locus Robotics Inc. closed a $40 million Series D round as it expands in Europe. The day before that, OTTO Motors, an AMR unit of Clearpath Robotics Inc. in Kitchener, Ontario, raised a $29 million Series C round to expand its own global network.
Forklifts are dangerous and therefore good candidates for automation. Union City, Calif.-based self-driving forklift vendor Third Wave Automation raised Series A funding of $15 million, and Shenzhen, China-based vision-guided forklift company VisionNav Robotics Co. raised $14.25 in Series B1 funding.
Mobile robot maker Suzhou Muxing Intelligent Technology raised $14.1 million in June 2020, as did Future Robot Shenzhen Co. Oakland, Calif.-based Boxbot raised $7.5 million in seed funding, and delivery robot firm Suzhou AGV Robot Co. raised $4.38 million in seed funding.
Singapore-based heavy-duty AMR maker Botsync closed an unspecified seed round. Although much of its portfolio is beyond the scope of this report, China Smart Logistics Network Ltd. (also known as Cainiao) was acquired by Alibaba Group Holding for $1.3 billion.
Healthcare systems obtain investments in June 2020
In June 2020, healthcare robotics companies raised at least $220 million. Beijing Tinavi Medical Technology, which is developing an orthopedic robot, had its initial public offering of $71 million on the STAR Market of the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
HistoSonics, a non-invasive robotic therapy company with offices in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Minneapolis, Minn., raised $40 million in Series C1 financing. Rouen, France-based Robocath Inc. raised $43 million for cardiac surgical systems. Venus Concept Inc., a “medical aesthetic” company in Toronto, raised $31 million.
Seattle-based surgical navigation firm Proprio received $23 million in Series A funding. Toronto-based surgical robotics developer Titan Medical Inc. raised $18 million and established a U.S. research and development unit.
Chirtae Ventures led an unspecified seed round for Poznan, Poland-based prosthetics maker Aether Biomedical. Fourier Intelligence acquired Guangdong, China-based exoskeleton and rehabilitation provider Zhuhai RHK Healthcare.
Industrial automation acquires support
Industrial automation companies received more than $65 million this past month. Toyota AI Ventures was among the participants in the $25 million Series B round of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Drishti Technologies Inc., which is working to apply AI to production.
Also in June 2020, Tztek Technology Co. acquired MueTec Automated Microscopy and Messtechnik GmbH for $20.2 million. Suzhou, China-based Tztek, which uses AI in manufacturing, plans to apply Munich, Germany-based MueTec’s measurement technologies to enter the test equipment market.
Late last month, Los Angeles-based Elementary Robotics Inc., which is developing hardware and software for automated visual inspections, raised $12.7 million in Series A funding. RIOS Corp. emerged from stealth with $5 million in venture capital. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup said it has developed AI-driven dexterous robots for complex tasks in unstructured environments.
In Malaysia, wastewater treatment company VentureTECH invested $3.5 million in industrial automation provider TXMR Sdn Bhd and ACME Chemicals. Roseburg, Ore.-based wood products integrator Con-Vey Holdings has spun off 7robotics as an automation supplier.
Cleaning and inspection robots find June 2020 financing
Interest in service robots for cleaning and customer service, as well as drones for industrial inspection, has risen as the pandemic has forced social distancing. Korean telecommunications firm KT invested $41.4 million into Hyundai Robotics. The Daegu, South Korea-based industrial automation provider plans to develop service robots and smart factories with KT.
Beijing-based i-KINGTECH raised $25 million for its inspection drones and AI products and services for smart cities and utilities management.
Yunjing Intelligence Technology Co., also known as Narwhal, raised an unspecified amount of Series C funding. The Dongguan, China-based cleaning robot provider completed Series B funding of $14 million in April.
DroneBase Inc., an aerial analytics service provider in Santa Monica, Calif., received $7.5 million in Series C funding. Riga, Latvia-based Aerones SIA raised $1.6 million in seed funding as it pivots from aerial drones to ground-based robots for cleaning wind turbines.
Company Six, a sibling to educational robot company Sphero Inc. in Boulder, Colo., raised $3 million to develop AI and robots to assist first responders.
Shenzhen Youdi Technology Co., which is developing indoor and outdoor service robots, raised an unspecified amount in June 2020. Mumbai, India-based Peppermint raised seed funding for industrial cleaning robots.
Sensors, vision, and robotics programming complete June 2020
Dresden, Germany-based Wandelbots GmbH, whose TracePen is designed to make it easier to program robot motion, raised a $30 million Series B.
Seoul-based Bitsensing, which is developing radar sensors, has raised $5.8 million in pre-Series A funding. Seattle-based wireless charging provider WiBotic Inc. has obtained Series A funding of $5.7 million.
SLAMcore Ltd. in London is developing “spatial AI” for robot and drone navigation, raised $4.94 million. Pittsburgh-based lidar startup Psionic has raised $500,000 in seed funding.
Computer vision providers SmartMore Technology Co. in Hong Kong and Adaps Photonics Inc. in Guangdong, China, received an unspecified seed round and Series A1 funding, respectively.
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.