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ABI Research: Robotics VC Investment Hit $5.7B in 2021

July 12, 2022

The global robotics Venture Capital (VC) investment reached US$5.7 billion in 2021, a 38% year-on-year growth. The growth was driven by successful startups from key markets such as the United States, China, the United Kingdom, and Israel. Leading startups demonstrated strong capabilities in three major domains: mobility, autonomy, and collaboration, specifically human-machine collaboration.

The investment market worldwide was relatively muted in 2020, as fewer deals were concluded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the current labor shortage induced by COVID-19 and the ongoing supply chain crunch are leading more businesses to look for ways to automate labor-intensive, repetitive, and hazardous tasks. “More precisely, businesses are looking for robotics solutions that are mobile, can navigate through obstacles in unstructured environments, and work alongside human employees without much supervision and control,” said Lian Jye Su, Industrial, Commercial, and Collaborative Robotics Research Director at ABI Research.

This is reflected in the large funding raised by robotics vendors in three major verticals: delivery, warehousing, and healthcare. Among the startups that raised a significant amount in 2021, medical-surgical system startups, including CMR Surgical, Memic Innovative Surgery, Edge Medical Robotics, Procept BioRobotics, and Changmugu Medical, continued their growth trend in recent years. These systems encourage collaborations between surgeons and robots, improve surgical outcomes, and enhance surgeon capabilities. Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) vendors were also leading the investments, with Nuro in last-mile delivery, Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) startups Fabric and InVia Robotics in warehousing, Gaussian Robotics in cleaning, Gideon Brothers, Pudu, and ForwardX Robotics in general-purpose AMR.

“The ABI Research confirmed the rapid growth in robotics in 2021”, said Scott Deutsch, President, Americas of the Ehrhardt + Partner Group. “I suspect in 2022/2023 that many of these robotics vendors will not live to see 2024 as the private equity market begins to slow down due to the higher costs of money and the financial markets having less patience. The few stronger vendors with strong balance sheets though, will take full advantage of the opportunity and consolidate the weaker players even faster than planned.”

“All these robots are increasingly relying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technologies such as semantic Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), computer vision, and sensor fusion, supported by the advancement in processing chipsets and environmental sensors. As such, autonomous robots have proven themselves as reliable partners in the workplace. At the same time, businesses are also slowly realizing the business value of robotics automation and actively trialing various solutions,” explains Su.

Moving forward, the VC investment in robotics is expected to continue its growth. As more and more businesses start to test and deploy robotics solutions, they are looking for reliable robotics software and services to manage their now expanding fleet of robots. “More startups are developing dedicated software that handles specific robotics functions, such as simulation, fleet management, and computer vision. In addition, some startups focus on offering dedicated operating services based on drones and AMRs, such as aerial data collection, infrastructure inspection, and last-mile delivery, creating an increasingly diverse and robust robotics ecosystem,” concludes Su.

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