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The number of investments, mergers, and acquisitions in the robotics industry has held steady year over year, despite the ongoing novel coronavirus. However, the total value of September 2020’s transactions dropped in comparison with the same month last year. In addition, autonomous vehicles were not the recipients of the most money within automation, as healthcare systems and artificial intelligence processor makers obtained more funding.
The Robot Report, sibling publication to Robotics Business Review, tracked 59 transactions worth more than $1.5 billion last month, in comparison with 50 deals worth a total of about $2.3 billion in August 2020 and 45 transactions worth about $2.4 billion in September 2019. Still, the number of transactions, partly related to recovering Asian markets, should be cause for cautious optimism amid the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and impending U.S. elections.
In terms of fundings, 53 robotics companies raised money in September 2020, compared with 43 last month and 39 a year ago. Supply chain automation, agricultural systems, and service robots also received funding last month.
The table below lists investments in millions of U.S. dollars, where amounts were publicly available:
Robotics Investments, September 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Investor, partner||Date||Technology|
|AICRobo||seed||Longbo Xiang Group||Sept. 2||mobile robot|
|AirSmat||0.1||seed||Zetogon||Sept. 21||drone software|
|AirWorks Solutions||2.7||seed||MetaProp||Sept. 17||aerial mapping software|
|Annotell||6.8||Series A||Ernstrom & Co.||Sept. 29||autonomous vehicle perception|
|ARIX Technologies||4.6||Series A||Sept. 14||drone inspection|
|BionicM||5.18||Series A||UTokyo Innovation Platform||Sept. 7||prosthetic assistant|
|Blue White Robotics||10||investment||Jesselson Investment||Sept. 15||autonomous vehicles|
|Clearpath Robotics||5||Series C||McRock Capital||Sept. 22||mobile robots|
|Dreame Technology||14.6||Series B+||IDG Capital||Sept. 1||robotic vacuum|
|DroneDek||0.365||investment||Sept. 28||drone delivery|
|Emesent Pty. Ltd.||seed||In-Q-Tel||Sept. 22||autonomous drones|
|Exotec Solutions SAS||90||investment||83North||Sept. 29||warehouse automation|
|Gaoxian Automation Technology Development||22.1||Series B+||Broad Vision Funds, China Capital Management||Sept. 2||cleaning robots|
|Hai Robotics||14.66||Series B||Source Code Capital||Sept. 2||warehouse robot|
|Humatics Corp.||30||Series B||Blackhorn Ventures||Sept. 16||microlocation|
|iDriver Plus Technology Co.||Series C+||Xin Ding Capital||Sept. 14||autonomous vehicles|
|Ink Shadow Technology Co.||pre-A||Meihua Ventures||Sept. 11||mobile robots|
|IntelliFusion||147||Series D||Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Construction Development Group, China Electronics and Information Industry Group||Sept. 28||vision processor|
|Invento Robotics||seed||MSPL, Chiripal Group||Sept. 16||humanoid robot|
|Iron Ox||20||Series B||Pathbreaker Ventures, Family Offices||Sept. 9||automated farm|
|Jouav Automation Tech Co.||66.6||IPO||Sept. 18||drones|
|LaunchPoint Technologies Inc.||1.48||seed||Sept. 14||drone motors|
|Magazino||24.42||investment||Jungheinrich, European Investment Bank||Sept. 24||mobile robots|
|MicroPort MedBot Co.||512||investment||Hillhouse Capital||Sept. 4||surgical robotics|
|Mojie Automation Technology||seed||TengguVC||Sept. 2||robotic grinding|
|Monarc||1.3||Series A||Sept. 14||robotic quarterback|
|Monteris Medical||9||Series D||Sept. 4||surgical robotics|
|Networx3||0.133||seed||Sept. 3||drone inspection|
|Omnirobotic||5||seed||Fonds de solidarite FTQ, Export Development Canada||Sept. 24||manufacturing AI|
|Ouster||42||Series B||Cox Automotive, Tao Capital Partners, Fontinalis Partners||Sept. 8||lidar|
|Phantasma Labs||seed||APEX Ventures||Sept. 3||driverless simulation|
|Psionic||1||seed||Sept. 8||lidar sensors|
|QuadSAT||2.37||pre-Series A||Seraphim Capital||Sept. 10||drones|
|RaySea Technology||29.31||Series A+||Shanghai Free Trade Zone Fund, Yunhao Capital||Sept. 2||optical chips, cleaning robots|
|Saga Robotics||11.25||stake purchase||Cibus Enterprise Fund||Sept. 1||mildew-killing robot|
|Sarcos Robotics||40||Series C||Rotor Capital||Sept. 1||industrial exoskeleton|
|Scape Technology A/S||0.053||share sale||MaxAuto Co.||Sept. 4||bin picking|
|Seegrid Corp.||52||equity||G2VP||Sept. 15||mobile robots|
|SemiDrive Technology||73||Series A||Heli Capital||Sept. 29||driverless processor|
|Shanghai Leyan Information Technology Co.||Series C2||Sky9 Capital||Sept. 18||retail|
|Shenzhen RVBUST||10||Series A||Gao Wei Capital||Sept. 10||3D vision, motion planning|
|Speedbot Robotics Ltd.||14||Series A||MSA Capital||Sept. 10||3D vision|
|Suzhou Junduo Robot||2.93||Series A||Zhengxuan Capital||Sept. 22||grippers|
|ThruWave||6.4||seed||E14 Fund||Sept. 3||sensors|
|Trashbots||0.5||seed||Sputnik ATX||Sept. 2||educational kit|
|TuSimple||investment||Traton Group||Sept. 23||autonomous trucks|
|Velodyne Lidar Inc.||IPO||Graf Industrial Corp.||Sept. 30||sensors|
|VersaBox||2.92||investment||Fidiasz EVC, SpeedUp Energy Innovation, Movens Capital, RST Ventures for Earth||Sept. 23||mobile robots|
|Volansi Inc.||50||Series B||Icon Ventures||Sept. 15||drone delivery|
|Voliro AG||2.22||seed||Alpana Ventures||Sept. 22||drone inspection|
|Yandex Self-Driving Group BV||150||spinoff||Yandex NV, Uber Technologies Inc.||Sept. 4||autonomous vehicles|
As in August 2020, there were seven mergers and acquisitions in September 2020, compared with six in September 2019. The reported total for last month was only $74 million, compared with $180 million last month and $974 million last year.
Robotics Acquisitions, September 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|CelePixel Technology||5.82||Baidu Ventures||Sept. 27||machine vision|
|Holo Surgical Inc.||Surgalign Holdings Inc.||Sept. 29||AR, surgical robotics|
|InSpace||Hancom Group||Sept. 9||drone data processing|
|nFrames||Esri||Sept. 9||3D mapping|
|Perceptron Inc.||69||Atlas Copco||Sept. 28||machine vision|
|Phantom Intelligence||LeddarTech||Sept. 22||lidar sensors|
|ULC Robotics||SPX Corp.||Sept. 2||infrastructure inspection|
Surgical robots get their cut in September 2020
The largest single robotics transaction last month was the Hillhouse Capital-led $512 million investment in MicroPort MedBot Co. The Shanghai, China-based company is developing surgical robotics for orthopedic and cardiovascular procedures.
Plymouth, Minn.-based Monteris Medical raised $9 million in Series D funding as it marked the treatment of 3,000 people with its NeuroBlate robot-assisted brain surgery device. Also in September 2020, BionicM in Tokyo obtained Series A funding of $5.18 million as it develops robotic lower-limb prostheses.
Rezilient Health joined the Techstars Future of Longevity incubator and received $120,000 in seed funding. The St. Louis-based startup is developing telemedicine robots.
Surgalign Holdings Inc. acquired Holo Surgical Inc., which is working on augmented reality (AR), AI, and robot-assisted surgery, for an unspecified amount.
AI processors, sensors find funding
Component technologies including 3D vision and lidar sensors, motors, and grippers, as well as AI chips, raised a total of $327 million in September 2020. Shenzhen, China-based vision processor maker IntelliFusion led with $147 million in Series D funding.
Nanjing, China-based automotive chip maker SemiDrive Technology got Series A investment of $73 million, and Zhejiang, China-based optical chip maker RaySea Technology raised Series A+ funding of $29.31 million.
There were some machine vision acquisitions in September 2020. Atlas Copco purchased Plymouth, Minn.-based Perceptron Inc. for $69 million, and Baidu Ventures bought Shanghai-based CelePixel Technology for $5.82 million.
On the lidar side, San Francisco-based Ouster obtained $42 million in Series B funding, and Pittsburgh-based Psionic received $1 million in seed funding. Velodyne Lidar Inc. announced its initial public offering (IPO) on Nasdaq and combination with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Graf Industrial Corp.
In addition, unmanned aerial systems component providers found financing. LaunchPoint Technologies Inc., a motor maker in Goleta, Calif., got $1.48 million in seed funding. AirSmat, a drone software provider in Lagos, Nigeria, raised $100,000 in seed funding.
NVIDIA Corp.’s $40 billion acquisition of Arm Holdings Ltd. involves processors for more than AI and robotics but is worth mentioning as one of the biggest technology deals of September 2020.
Warehouse automation rolls up September 2020 support
Companies making robots for supply chain and logistics operations raised $277 million last month, led by Exotec Solutions SAS’s $90 million in funding. The Croix, France-based company is building automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS).
Pittsburgh-based mobile robot maker Seegrid Corp. raised $52 million in equity financing. Scape Technology A/S, a bin-picking provider in the Odense, Denmark, robotics cluster, raised $53,000 through a share sale.
Drone deliveries are taxiing for takeoff, with Volansi Inc. raising $50 million in Series B funding as it works on middle-mile, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drones.
Back on the ground, multiple mobile robot companies obtained investment in September 2020, reflecting the acceleration of e-commerce demand during the global pandemic. Munich, Germany-based Magazino raised $24.42 million, and Hai Robotics raised $14.66 million.
Autonomous vehicles hit the brakes
Companies developing self-driving cars, trucks, and tractors raised more than $220 million in September 2020, still a significant amount, but less than in past months. Uber Technologies Inc. and Yandex NV said they will spin off their self-driving joint venture and invest $150 million in Moscow-based Yandex Self-Driving Group BV.
Waltham, Mass.-based Humatics Corp. secured $30 million in Series B funding as it scales its Milo Microlocation System and expnds its Rail Navigation System.
Meanwhile, Annotell, an autonomous vehicle perception algorithm developer in Gothenburg, Sweden, announced $6.8 million in Series. funding in September 2020. Berlin-based driverless simulation firm Phantasma Labs received unspecified seed funding.
Drone and field robotics firms obtain financing
Aerial drones and mobile robots for agriculture, energy, and infrastructure garnered investor interest in September 2020. Jouav Automation Tech Co., a maker of inspection drones in Chengdu, China, raised $66.6 million in an IPO.
Tel Aviv-based Blue White Robotics, which provides agricultural vehicles to farms in a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model, announced $10 million in funding. ARIX Technologies, a New Orleans-based company making corrosion-detection drones, received Series A funding of $4.6 million.
Also in September 2020, Boston-based aerial mapping software maker AirWorks Solutions raised $2.7 million in seed funding, and Odense-based QuadSAT, which uses drones to inspect satellite antennas, raised $2.37 million. Zurich-based drone inspection provider Voliro AG closed $2.22 million in seed funding.
Indianapolis-based drone delivery startup DroneDek raised $365,000 in seed funding last month. Networx3, a drone inspection operator in Great Harwood, U.K., raised $133,000 in seed funding. Emesent Pty. Ltd., a Brisbane, Australia-based firm developing autonomy for industrial drones, received unspecified seed funding from In-Q-Tel.
Manufacturing and service robots head into fall
Although the International Federation of Robotics said that 2019 was another strong year for industrial automation, the slowdown in investment was noteworthy in September 2020. Sarcos Robotics, whose Guardian XO full-body industrial exoskeleton is intended for full-shift use, received $40 million in an oversubscribed Series C round.
Laval, Quebec-based Omnirobotic, which is building AI for manufacturing and finishing, reported $5 million in seed funding, the only one in that market to list an amount last month.
Shenzhen, China-based AICRobo and Ink Shadow Technology Co. both raised unspecified amounts for their mobile robots for factories. Nanjing, China-based Mojie Automation Technology raised seed funding for its grinding robots.
Service and consumer robots fared slightly better in gaining investor interest in September 2020. Shanghai-based Gaoxian Automation Technology Development, also known as Gaussian Robotics, raised $22.1 million in Series B+ funding for its cleaning robots.
Monarc, a Dallas-based provider of a robotic quarterback for American football, had a $1.3 million Series A round in September 2020.
Invento Robotics, a Bengaluru, India-based startup working on a humanoid robot, received undisclosed seed funding. Customer service technology provider Shanghai Leyan Information Technology Co. raised an unspecified amount.
Related content: The Robot Report Podcast: Robotics investments trends; are Amazon drone deliveries coming?
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.