ODENSE, Denmark — Blue Ocean Robotics ApS today announced that it has raised close to $12 million (U.S.) from Danish investors. The company said it plans to use its funding to continue its development of service robots for the healthcare, hospitality, construction, and agriculture industries.
Blue Ocean’s UVD robot, which autonomously disinfects hospital rooms with ultraviolet light, won the 15th Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award in Robotics and Automation (IERA). The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS) presented the IERA in June.
Investors recognize potential of service robots
Blue Ocean has moved from being a systems integrator to being a full-service robotics company, with design, development, and commercialization offerings. It also creates subsidiaries for each project that can be spun off and sold, calling itself “the world’s first robot venture factory.”
The family of the late C.C. Nielsen, founder of draft beer company Micro Matic A/S, led the latest round of funding. Other investors include the owners of Danish companies Plus Pack and Juliana Drivhuse, Steen Haustrup, and Bo Stærmose.
“Service robots are playing an increasingly important role and becoming a natural and integrated part of our everyday lives, and as an investor, I want to support this development,” said Bo Stærmose, chairman at Juliana Drivhuse and a Blue Ocean Robotics investor. “A great example of Danish innovation is Blue Ocean Robotics’ UV disinfection robot. It is currently being used at a number of hospitals around the world, where it prevents infections faster and more efficiently than humans can do manually.”
Previous investors who participated in two previous funding rounds of $7.4 million in 2016 and $14.8 million in 2018 also participated in the current round, said the company.
Blue Ocean’s founders — Claus Risager, CEO; John Erland Østergaard, chief technology officer; and Rune K. Larsen, chief robotics Officer — still maintain the largest shareholder stake. However, the company said this new investment provides not only growth capital, but also professional expertise and connections.
”We are pleased that we have been able to attract capital from such a broad investor base in this investment round, which contributes to strengthening the commercialization of our robots,” said Jørn Tolstrup Rohde, chairman of Blue Ocean’s board of directors. “Specifically, service robots represent an extremely strong expansion potential internationally, which makes our company attractive to investors.”
Planning for growth
According to Blue Ocean Robotics, its value has doubled to nearly $120 million in just one year. Unlike other companies in the Odense robotics cluster, such as Universal Robots A/S or Mobile Industrial Robots ApS (both owned by U.S.-based Teradyne Inc.), Blue Ocean sells multiple types of robots.
“We are extremely happy that our now larger and dedicated group of investors sees the opportunities in providing working capital for our fierce expansion, staff growth and continued commercial scale-up,” stated Risager. “The interest in our service robots is accelerating much faster than we had dared to hope.”
During the past two months, Blue Ocean said, it has hired nearly one new employee every day, now employing more than 100 people.
“Currently, we are witnessing a tremendous commercial growth in Blue Ocean Robotics with great global demand for our professional service robots,” said Risager. “To support this global growth, we have scaled up in all parts of the company, from sales, marketing, customer service, finance and production.”
The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and register now.
Blue Ocean successes and challenges
Robotics developers can learn from Blue Ocean’s successes, as well as its challenges. The company’s portfolio includes its UVD robots, the PTR robots for safe patient handling and rehabilitation, and the Beam mobile telepresence robots.
In August, Blue Ocean said it had acquired the assets and rights for Beam from Suitable Technologies Inc., but the sale is being contested by Allison Huynh and other shareholders who claim that Suitable CEO Scott Hassan undervalued the company. Blue Ocean had no comment on the lawsuits, which are pending in the Delaware Chancery Court and family court in California (Huynh is Hassan’s ex-wife). A hearing scheduled for tomorrow could affect the whether the sale proceeds.