ABI Research predicts that venture capital investments in robotics is expected to continue its growth as more businesses start to test and deploy robotics solutions.
"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," said Lian Jye Su, industrial, commercial and collaborative robotics research director at ABI Research.
Coming off a muted market in 2020 with fewer deals in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market research firm valued venture capital investments in robotics worldwide reached US$5.7 billion in 2021, a 38% year-on-year growth. This growth was driven by successful startups in China, Israel, United Kingdom and the United States, according to ABI Research.
The market research firm added that leading startups demonstrated strong capabilities in three major areas: mobility, autonomy, and collaboration, specifically human-machine collaboration.
Su noted that companies are currently looking for ways to automate labour-intensive, repetitive and hazardous tasks. This is driven by the ongoing labour shortage caused by COVID-19 and by the supply chain disruption.
"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 Su.
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.
Furthermore, 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.
"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 realisiing the business value of robotics automation and actively trialing various solutions," said Su.