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Why Billions Keep Pouring Into Robotics and AI

Venture capital firms are funding more robotics companies as industries seek more automation.
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Venture capital firms are eager to allocate money into robotics firms in a wide range of industries from shipping to healthcare as more automation became a focus during the global pandemic.

In 2021, funding globally for robotics and drone companies rose to $14.9 billion, according to PitchBook.

The amount of funding raised for robotics in 2022 has been steady. By January, VCs allocated $560 million of funding into robotics startups, excluding the round for Wandelbots, a German industrial robotics company that raised $84 million for its Series C round in January. The funding for the company’s no-code platform came from U.S. investor Insight Partners, which led the round and was also supported by its existing backers - Microsoft (MSFT) - , 83North, Next47, Paua, Atlantic Labs and EQT.

The potential for growth in the robotics industry is immense as more automation is sought, Angelo Zino, an equity analyst at CFRA, a New York-based investment research company, told bovada.

Factory automation is a large aspect as new capabilities arise for both the industrial and consumer sectors, he said.

“It’s a fast growing market,” Zino said. “Clearly there is an explosion going on with IoT and robotics is included in that spectrum. There is greater automation across everything we do.”

The growth of AI being used in tech and products is leading the market since there has been a lot of change in all end markets, he said.

“The third paradigm shift of AI started four years ago and drives the tech market,” Zino said. “This AI phase is much bigger than first two phases of the PC and mobile devices.”

Software has been a critical component of improving the functionality of robots.

“A big reason we’re going to see a big explosion in the robotics arena is the emergence of AI and all the work being done on the software side of things,” Zino said. “This is a massive holy grail for the tech industry of the next 20 to 30 years.”

Investors are attracted to the robotics industry because the growth potential “becomes enormous,” he said. “The cost of creating these types of devices have become a reality and are not as expensive.”

Robots for Nursing Shortages

Improved artificial intelligence has yielded the use of more robotics in various industries, which has been critical in industries such as nursing that have experienced massive staffing shortages because of Covid-19 and burnout.

Diligent Robotics, an Austin, Texas-based startup founded by two women, raised over $30 million in April. The funding will be used to deal with supply chain issues and hire more employees to deploy Moxi, a collaborative robot. Tiger Global and the company’s existing investors True Ventures, DNX Venture, Ubiquity Ventures, E14 Fund, Next Coast Ventures, Boom Capital and Gaingels also participated, along with a new investor, Cedars-Sinai Health Ventures.

This new round of funding will help the company scale to meet the increasing demand for its healthcare service robot, said Andrea Thomaz, co-founder of Diligent Robotics.

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Moxi, which debuted in 2018, works with clinical staff with routine tasks such as bringing supplies, medications or lab samples. The company started its commercial deployments in 2020 and has worked with several hospital systems, including Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which purchased more robots after its initial trial phase in December.

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“We’re also developing best-in-class computer vision to identify everything in our waste stream, from broad categories like PET plastic, to highly specific items like cat food tins,” she wrote. “We now have an extraordinary degree of insight into what exactly is in our trash. Our aim is to equip every participant in the recycling industry with this data intelligence.”

Glacier said its robots are half the cost compared to other recycling facilities because they are customized and are 20% cheaper to install. The robots are also much smaller and only need three feet of length for the conveyor compared to traditional models that seek 9–12 feet.

The funding will be used to hire more employees and focus on creating real-time waste intelligence for facilities and municipalities.