BOSTON — With more than 150 robotics companies in Massachusetts, the state boasts one of the largest and most commercially successful robotics hubs in the world. This week, MassRobotics reported that acquisitions and investments in Massachusetts robotics companies totaled more than $1.2 billion in 2019 so far.
“I think the robotics cluster in the Boston area is different from others because of its robustness, density, and cohesiveness,” said Tom Ryden, executive director of MassRobotics. “There is a broad and dynamic innovation ecosystem here that robotics companies can tap into.”
“Along with the hundreds of companies building all sorts of robots, there are over 35 robotics labs at the local colleges and universities that are providing great ideas and talent,” he told The Robot Report. “And I am amazed at how tight-knit the community is — how they help each other, share ideas, and cheer on each other’s successes.”
MassRobotics is a nonprofit founded in 2017 dedicated to supporting the local robotics community. The organization said it provides resources and facilities for innovators, member companies, and entrepreneurs to develop, prototype, and test their ideas. MassRobotics works with more than 250 companies, including more than 35 startups, as well as strategic partners across industries.
For instance, MassRobotics is working with Cowen Inc. on artificial intelligence and robotics research, and it recently partnered with sensor maker SICK to assist startups. The organization is expanding its facilities in Boston’s Seaport District.
Recognizing the potential of Massachusetts robotics companies
In its monthly roundups, The Robot Report has tracked transactions among several robotics suppliers in Massachusetts as part of global totals. The investments included startups and established companies serving everything from warehouse automation to healthcare robotics. Here are some examples:
Selected 2019 Massachusetts robotics transactions
|Company||Transaction||Amt. ($M)||Investor, acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|6 River Systems Inc.||acquisition||450||Shopify Inc.||Sept. 9||mobile robots|
|Humatics Corp.||Series A1||28||Tenfore Holdings||Jan. 7||microlocation|
|Locus Robotics Corp.||Series C||26||Scale Venture Partners, Zebra Ventures||April 22||mobile robots|
|Ori Inc.||Series B||20||Sidewalk Labs, Ingka Group, Geolo Capital, Khosla Ventures||Sept. 5||robotic furniture|
|Veo Robotics Inc.||Series A1||15||Jan. 15||sensors, safety software|
|Activ Surgical Inc.||venture round||14.9||July 5||surgical robotics|
|XYZ Robotics Inc.||Series A||8||Gaorong Capital, Morningside Venture Capital||Aug. 15||putwall sorting|
|Pickle Robot Co.||Series A||3.7||Hyperplane Venture Capital||May 23||package handling|
Although MassRobotics included Shopify’s recent acquisition of mobile robot maker 6 River Systems, it did not include Siemens Medical Solutions’ purchase of Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc. for more than $1.1 billion. In addition, the value of June acquisitions such as that of Riptide Autonomous Solutions by BAE Systems Inc. and Root Robotics by iRobot were not disclosed.
At the Robotics Summit & Expo in Boston this summer, a panel discussed the reasons why successful robotics companies cluster around cities such as Boston; Pittsburgh; San Jose, Calif.; and Odense, Denmark. The panelists agreed that university research, a critical mass of talent, and a clear sense of which markets to serve are all crucial enabling factors, but each cluster has unique strengths.
“Massachusetts is home to one of the greatest innovation ecosystems in the country, and robotics is a vital part of it,” stated Damon Cox, assistant secretary for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship for the commonwealth of Massachusetts. “It is exciting to see the record levels of investment in robotics, and we are optimistic about how this will benefit the commonwealth. We are committed to the continued growth of this and other industries that leverage our highly educated workforce, institutions, and research and development activities.”
The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 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 registration is now open.