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Agile Robots AG, a German robotics developer, is acquiring Franka Emika GmbH just two months after it filed for preliminary insolvency. Agile said it will take over Franka Emika’s operations, keeping its approximately 100-person staff with plans to grow the company.
Back in September 2023, Munich–based Franka Emika, the developer of the Panda collaborative robot (cobot) arm, cited “irreconcilable shareholder differences” as the reason behind its filing for insolvency. Since the filing, Matthias Hofmann, Franka Emika’s preliminary insolvency administrator, continued talks with previous investors and worked to open discussions with new ones.
Franka Emika’s creditors’ committee previously approved the transaction. Franka Emika and Agile Robots did not disclose the financial details of the transaction. However, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported the acquisition was worth more than 30 million euros ($32 million).
Agile Robots is also based in Munich and was founded at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in 2018. The company offers an industrial robot arm, a cobot arm, software, an anthropomorphic robotic hand and more.
“The merger of Agile Robots and Franka Emika is a strong signal for Germany as a robotics and AI location,” Zhaopeng Chen, CEO and founder of Agile Robots, said. “This transaction is an industrial solution that offers a unique opportunity to create a Bavarian technology company with a truly global perspective. We look forward to shaping the future of Industry 5.0 together with the team at Franka Emika.”
Overlap between Agile and Franka
The two companies both offer robots for research and education and industrial use. Agile Robots could be interested in Franka Emika because of this overlap. While it could be unrelated to the company filing for insolvency, systems integrator Voith Robotics stopped selling Franka Emika’s Panda arm in favor of cobots from Universal Robots in early 2020.
At the time, a source told The Robot Report the relationship between Franka Emika and Voith was a mismatch from the beginning due to Franka Emika’s focus on education. Voith is a purely industrial integrator, so it didn’t mix well with Franka, according to the source.
Agile said its education platform, Aini, helps students aged 8 to 15 program and operate robots. It includes an educational framework and an integrated platform. Agile said the platform teaches foundational concepts of logic, computer science, mathematics, and physics by teaching kids to control a robot.
Franka Emika makes its Research 3 cobot for the robotics research community. The company said it offers a combination of physical interaction features and ease of use to best fit researchers’ needs.
While Franka gears its arm towards the robotics research community, the companies could integrate Franka’s research cobots with Agile’s Aini platform in the future. Agile is also interested in using Franka to grow its global reach.
“This transaction allows us to accelerate the implementation of our international growth strategy,” Rory Sexton, vice president of operations at Agile Robots, said. “The combination of strong AI and software expertise with leading robotics technology strengthens our innovation power and our ability to develop demand-driven and market-ready products. This is good for our location, for the teams, and for the customers of both companies.”