Robotics investments recap: September 2020

For the first time in months, autonomous vehicles were not the biggest area of investments in robotics and related technologies. Healthcare systems and processors for artificial intelligence pulled ahead in September 2020. However, the total value of robotics transactions dropped from the same period last year.

The Robot Report tracked 58 transactions worth more than $1.6 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, 51 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
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
Rezilient 0.12 seed Techstars Sept. 3 telepresence
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 52.9 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
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 take the lead 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.

In the broader medical device space, Medtronic Inc. offered $7.3 billion in notes, but that is beyond the scope of this report.

Processors and 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.

Not to be left behind, 3D vision firms also found funding in September 2020. Changsha, China-based Speedbot Robotics Ltd.’s Series A was $14 million, while Shenzhen RVBUST’s Series A was $10 million.

ThruWave, a sensor maker in Seattle, raised seed funding of $6.4 million. Series A funding for Suzhou Junduo Robot, which makes robotic grippers, was $2.93 million.

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.

Hancom Group acquired InSpace, a drone data processing firm in Daejeon, South Korea. Similarly, Esri acquired nFrames, a 3D mapping company in Stuttgart, Germany. No amounts were specified.

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.

Supply chain automation scores 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).

Scape Technology A/S, a bin-picking provider in the Odense, Denmark, robotics cluster, raised $52.9 million through a share sale. Pittsburgh-based mobile robot maker Seegrid Corp. raised $52 million in equity financing.

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.

In addition, Waterloo, Ontario-based Clearpath Robotics raised $5 million in Series C funding, and Warsaw, Poland-based Versabox raised $2.92 million.

Autonomous vehicles slow down

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.

Beijing-based iDriver Plus Technology Co. raised Series C+ funding. Traton Group, Volkswagen AG’s commercial vehicle unit, partnered with and invested in self-driving truck company TuSimple.

LeddarTech, which had acquired VayaVision Sensing Ltd. in July, added Phantom Intelligence’s lidar and advanced driver assistance systems to its portfolio in September 2020.

Drones, field robots raise 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 initial public offering.

San Carlos, Calif.-based IronOx, which is building robotic greenhouses, raised $20 million in Series B funding. Saga Robotics, a mildew-killing robot maker in Oslo, Norway, obtained $11.25 million.

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.

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.

SPX Corp. acquired Hauppauge, N.Y.-based ULC Robotics, which provides drones and RaaS for utilities inspections, for an unspecified amount.

Manufacturing, 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.

In consumer robotics, Dreame Technology, a robotic vacuum cleaner maker in Suzhou, China, raised $14.6 million, and Trashbots, an educational robot kit maker in Austin, Texas, raised $500,000.

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.

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.

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