Global robotics venture capital investments reached $5.7 billion in 2021, a 38 percent year-on-year growth, according to a report by ABI Research, a technology intelligence firm.
The growth was driven by successful startups from key markets such as the United States, China, the United Kingdom, and Israel. Leading startups demonstrated strong capabilities in three major domains: mobility, autonomy, and collaboration, specifically human-machine collaboration.
The investment market worldwide was relatively muted in 2020, as fewer deals were concluded due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the current labor shortage induced by Covid-19 and the ongoing supply chain crunch are leading more businesses to look for ways to automate labor-intensive, repetitive, and hazardous tasks.
Lian Jye Su, industrial, commercial, and collaborative robotics research director at ABI Research, says: “More precisely, businesses are looking for robotics solutions that are mobile, can navigate through obstacles in unstructured environments, and work alongside human employees without much supervision and control.”
This is reflected in the large funding raised by robotics vendors in three major verticals: delivery, warehousing, and healthcare. Among the startups that raised a significant amount in 2021, medical-surgical system startups, including CMR Surgical, Memic Innovative Surgery, Edge Medical Robotics, Procept BioRobotics, and Changmugu Medical, continued their growth trend in recent years.
These systems encourage collaborations between surgeons and robots, improve surgical outcomes, and enhance surgeon capabilities.
Autonomous mobile robot vendors were also leading the investments, with Nuro in last-mile delivery, automated storage and retrieval system startups Fabric and InVia Robotics in warehousing, Gaussian Robotics in cleaning, Gideon Brothers, Pudu, and ForwardX Robotics in general-purpose AMR.
Su says: “All these robots are increasingly relying on artificial intelligence based technologies such as semantic simultaneous localization and mapping, computer vision, and sensor fusion, supported by the advancement in processing chipsets and environmental sensors.
“As such, autonomous robots have proven themselves as reliable partners in the workplace. At the same time, businesses are also slowly realizing the business value of robotics automation and actively trialing various solutions.”
Moving forward, the VC investment in robotics is expected to continue its growth. As more and more businesses start to test and deploy robotics solutions, they are looking for reliable robotics software and services to manage their now expanding fleet of robots.
Su says: “More startups are developing dedicated software that handles specific robotics functions, such as simulation, fleet management, and computer vision. In addition, some startups focus on offering dedicated operating services based on drones and AMRs, such as aerial data collection, infrastructure inspection, and last-mile delivery, creating an increasingly diverse and robust robotics ecosystem.”