Robotics investments totaled at least $4.3 billion in February 2019 in a steep increase from January, which had about $1.4 billion. In addition, companies reported approximately $3.9 billion worth of acquisitions this past month. Any political or economic jitters have not yet harmed the mood for robot deals.
The Robotic Industries Association noted yesterday that robot sales in the U.S. continue to grow, especially in areas outside of automotive manufacturing. It cited demand in food and consumer goods, plastics and rubber, life sciences, and electronics.
Surgical robots, autonomous vehicles, wearable devices, and military robotics led investments for February 2019. See the table below, which lists amounts in millions of dollars where they were available:
February 2019 Robotics Investments
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Lead investor, partner||Date||Technology|
|Aerobotics Pty. Ltd.||2||investment||Paper Plane Ventures||2/27/2019||aerial drones|
|AIStorm||13.2||Series A||Egis Technology, TowerJazz, Meyer Corp., Linear Dimensions Semiconductor||2/11/2019||AI, edge processing|
|Aqrose Technology||4||Series A||Legend Capital||2/28/2019||machine vision|
|ASTI Mobile Robotics||minority stake||Keensight Capital||2/5/2019||AGVs|
|Aurora Innovation Inc.||530||Series B||Amazon.com Inc.||2/7/2019||self-driving cars|
|Beijing Surgerii Technology||Series A||Shunwei Capital||2/27/2019||surgical|
|Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc.||15||stock offering||2/26/2019||surgical|
|Horizon Robotics||600||Series B||SK China, SK Synix||2/27/2019||AI, IoT|
|Ike||52||Series A||Bain Capital Ventures||2/5/2019||self-driving trucks|
|Intuitive Surgical Inc.||2000||stock repurchase||2/1/2019||surgical|
|JIMU Intelligent||14||Series B||Translink Capital||2/25/2019||vehicle perception|
|Lightmatter||22||Series A-1||GV, Matrix Partners, Spark Capital||2/25/2019||AI|
|May Mobility||22||Series A||Millennium New Horizons, Cyrus Capital Partners||2/12/2019||autonomous shuttles|
|Myomo Inc.||6.4||stock offering||2/12/2019||wearables|
|Nuro.ai||940||investment||SoftBank Vision Fund||2/11/2019||robotic delivery|
|Nyamble Labs||early-stage||WaterBridge Ventures||2/26/2019||cooking|
|ReWalk Robotics Ltd.||4.37||stock offering||H.C. Wainwright & Co.||2/20/2019||exoskeleton|
|Rockwell Automation Inc.||notes offering||2/27/2019||industrial automation|
|Sabrewing Aircraft Co.||2||pre-Series A||Drone Fund, Idaten Ventures||2/19/2019||cargo drone|
|TuSimple||95||Series D||Sina Corp., Composite Capital||2/13/2019||autonomous trucks|
|Vicarious Surgical||10||investment||Gates Frontier||2/14/2019||surgical AR/VR|
|Vincross||10||Series A+||Lenovo||2/19/2019||developer kit|
|ViSenze||20||Series C||Gobi Partners, Sonae IM||2/19/2019||AI, machine vision|
|Yunji Technology||Series B||Huaxing Growth Capital, CDH Investments||2/18/2019||service robot|
And here are the acquisitions:
February 2019 Robotics Acquisitions
|Auris Health||3400||Johnson & Johnson||2/13/2019||surgical robots|
|Axis New England, Axis New York||Motion Industries||2/13/2019||automotive parts|
|Endeavor Robotics||385||FLIR Systems||2/12/2019||ground robots|
|Gasper Engineering||Eckhart Inc.||2/4/2019||AGVs, cobots|
|Inuktun||Eddyfi Technologies||2/26/2019||remote inspection|
|Ushr Inc.||181||Dynamic Map Platform Co.||2/13/2019||maps for self-driving vehicles|
Intuitive Surgical leads the way
The biggest transaction of February 2019 was the $2 billion stock repurchase that Intuitive Surgical Inc. filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The surgical robotics leader and maker of the da Vinci system has had enjoyed some good news lately.
In late January, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Intuitive Surgical stated that its 2018 fourth-quarter revenue grew 17 percent, to $1 billion, less than expected, but still strong. The company said it shipped 290 da Vinci Surgical Systems, compared with 216 in the fourth quarter of 2017.
In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved Intuitive’s Ion lung-biopsy system.
Such dominance comes with challenges, however. Restore Robotics LLC has filed a complaint accusing Intuitive of keeping competitors out of the repair market for da Vinci, and rivals are emerging.
This brings us to the other big deal of February 2019: Johnson & Johnson’s $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris Health Inc., whose Monarch endoscopy system has FDA approval for lung procedures. With contingent payments, the purchase could be worth a total of $5.75 billion.
Last November, Redwood City, Calif.-based Auris Health raised $220 million in equity financing.
Robotic surgery companies on the rise
Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc. raised $15 million in February 2019 in a stock offering, and Beijing Surgerii Technology reportedly raised an unspecified amount in Series A funding led by Shunwei Capital.
In addition, Vicarious Surgical, which is developing virtual reality for use in minimally invasive procedures, raised $10 million in funding led by the Gates Foundation. Last November, Medtronic and Mazor Robotics announced a $1.6 billion merger. What’s the reason for all this activity?
As with medical, assistive, and other healthcare robotics, the ramp up to commercial success has been long and slow for surgical robots. The expensive development process, an initial lack of reimbursement, and the need to train physicians and surgeons are all hurdles. However, the long-term benefits are clear to doctors and investors.
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A study by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that robot-assisted surgery is more expensive than traditional operations because of the need to repurchase instruments. However, the reduction in complications is worth the cost, the researchers concluded.
“Patients are able to get their surgery with smaller incisions, [which leads to a] theoretically faster recovery and less pain,” said Mark Girgis, a surgeon trained to work with robots at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Autonomous vehicles take cash deliveries
The next biggest set of transactions in February 2019 was in self-driving cars, trucks, and delivery vehicles. The SoftBank Vision Fund led a $940 million investment in Nuro.ai, which is developing robotic delivery vehicles.
Horizon Robotics received $600 million in Series B financing led by SK China and SK Hynix. The Beijing-based chipmaker is working on processors to enable artificial intelligence at the edge, including in autonomous vehicles, for the Internet of Things.
“Since its establishment more than three years ago, Horizon Robotics has devoted itself to becoming the leader in edge AI processors and computing platforms — enabling autonomous driving, smart cities, smart robotics, and other AIoT devices,” stated Dr. Yu Kai, founder and CEO of Horizon Robotics.
The Robot Report has already covered a string of transportation-related investments in February 2019. They included Aurora’s $530 million Series B with participation from Amazon, as well as funds for autonomous truck makers TuSimple ($95 million Series D) and Ike ($52 million Series A).
Mapping systems providers teamed up this month, as Tokyo-based Dynamic Map Platform Ltd. acquired Detroit-based Ushr Inc. for $181 million.
“Joining forces with DMP will help us to further access the market for self-driving cars and ADAS [advanced driver-assistance systems], particularly as consumer adoption is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years,” said Bruce Gordon, CEO of Ushr.
Add to that shuttle maker May Mobility’s $22 million Series A, and vehicle perception firm JIMU Intelligent’s $14 million Series B, and the drive to autonomous vehicles is just revving up.
Best of the rest for February 2019
Aside from surgical robotics and autonomous vehicles, wearable technology also got a boost this past month, with Myomo Inc. closing a $6 million round of financing and exoskeleton maker ReWalk Robotics Ltd. closing a public offering of shares worth $4.37 million.
In military robotics, FLIR Systems Inc. acquired Endeavor Robotics for $385 million.
Editors Note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify robotics investments 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, think, 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, and association and industry publications. 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.
EUGENE NISELSON says
Excellent article, Eugene! Very informative.