Although the COVID-19 pandemic began late last year in China and started affecting the global economy in March, it was April 2020 when the U.S. shut down as governments scrambled to contain the infection and its economic aftershocks. However, investment and mergers and acquisition continued to benefit automation for healthcare, cleaning, and supply chain applications.
Robotics Business Review tracked about 26 transactions worth a total of more than $600 million last month, compared with 29 deals worth $2.7 billion in March 2020 and 30 transactions worth $6.5 billion in April 2019. However, there were no reported shutdowns, even as driverless car testing, startup activity, and technology conferences faltered. According to ABI Research, 2019 was a record year for robotics, with $49 billion in investments, so there is reason for hope beyond the current crisis.
Unlike restaurants and hotels, most robotics developers, suppliers, and integrators have continued working through the COVID-19 pandemic. From drawing on stockpiled parts to continuing research or support from homes, the robotics industry has been relatively resilient. In a few applications, such as disinfection and cleaning, delivery of food and medicine, and telepresence, robots have been in high demand. The robotics community also contributed to efforts to quickly resupply personal protective equipment and ventilators.
The table below lists fundings in millions of U.S. dollars, where amounts were publicly available.
Robotics investments, April 2020
|Company||Location||Amt. (M$)||Type||Investor, acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|Agile Robots AG||Munich||Series A||C Ventures||April 2||AI, service robots|
|AI.Reverie||New York||5.6||investment||Vulcan Capital||April 14||computer vision|
|Anyverse||Madrid||3.3||Series A||Bullnet Capital, Inveready||April 29||perception|
|Brain Corp||San Diego||36||Series D||SoftBank Vision Fund||April 27||mobile robots|
|Certhon Group||ABC Westland, Netherlands||investment||Denso Corp.||April 1||automated greenhouse|
|Cobalt Robotics Inc.||San Mateo, Calif.||13||Series A||Sequoia||April 30||security robots|
|Crowntech Photonics||Shanghai||1.4||investment||Yunqi Partners||April 16||sensors|
|Elroy Air||San Francisco||6.78||Series A1||April 7||drone deliveries|
|FEDS Group Holdings Ltd.||Dubai||investment||Aerodyne Group||April 13||drone services|
|Huazhi Medical||Beijing||14||Series B||SDIC||April 30||surgical robot|
|Hyundai-Aptiv AD LLC||Boston||9.1||investment||April 8||autonomous vehicles|
|Inceptio Technology||Shanghai||100||investment||G7 Networks Ltd., Global Logistic Properties Ltd.||April 28||autonomous vehicles|
|Intellifusion||Shenzhen, China||141||pre-IPO||Utrust VC, Forebright Capital, Walden International||April 3||AI chips|
|Jianjia Robot Co.||Hangzhou, China||Series A||Baidu Ventures||April 25||surgical robot|
|Kalray||Grenoble, France||9||investment||NXP Semiconductors NV||April 2||self-driving cars|
|Narwhal||Dongguan, China||141||Series B||ByteDance||April 2||cleaning robots|
|Phantom AI||Burlingame, Calif.||22||Series A||Celeres Investments, Ford Motor Co., KT||April 2||ADAS software|
|Promobot||Perm, Russia||2.7||venture||Far East Tech Fund||Aprl 17||service robots|
|Qcraft Inc.||Santa Clara, Calif.||24||seed||IDG Capital||April 3||autonomous vehicles|
|Rise Robotics (LiftWave Inc.)||Somerville, Mass.||3||investment||The Engine||April 9||forklifts|
|Robocath||Rouen, France||43.76||Series C||MicroPort Scientific Corp.||April 30||surgical robot|
|Wayz Intelligent Manufacturing Technology||Wuxi, China||36||investment||Shenzhen Capital Group, CICC Qichen Fund||April 16||industrial automation|
|Youibot||Guangdong, China||seed||ZhenFund||April 14||mobile robots|
|Zvision||Beijing||9.92||Series A1||Fosun RZ Capital, Green Pine Capital||April 7||solid-state lidar|
Still, startups will need to draw on “rainy day” funds to survive until a recovery. Many businesses hope to reopen soon, despite concerns about a second wave of infections and fatalities. It remains to be seen how quickly the U.S. economy and others will be able to resume business.
“Any startup without funding for the next 24 months is going to struggle,” said Dor Skuler, CEO of Intuition Robotics. “If they don’t have enough for the next 12 months, they’re really going to struggle.”
Consolidation is likely in some sectors, but merger activity has also slowed, with only two reported acquisitions in April 2020, compared with one in the previous month and six a year ago.
Robotics acquisitions, April 2020
|Alpine||Cruise LLC||April 24||autonomous vehicles|
|DAHL Automation||HAHN Group||April 7||integrator|
Funding keeps on rolling for self-driving cars and trucks
Although shutdowns in reaction to COVID-19 have slowed work on autonomous vehicles, it hasn’t halted funding, with more than $174 million fueling companies in April 2020. Shanghai-based Inceptio Technology raised $100 million and was the first company to receive China’s A-sample validation for self-driving trucks.