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RobotUnion disrupted the European robotics market through the acceleration of 20 companies

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RobotUnion, the leading pan-European acceleration programme fully focused on robotics has announced its results as the three-year initiative funded under the Horizon 2020 programme comes to an end.  The project supported 20 robotics solutions in developing their technology that would mobilize the prioritized sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and civil infrastructure and main challenges defined in Multi-Annual Roadmap for Robotics

The strong consortium of 14 partners gathered a constellation of Top players representing all the links of the innovation value chain from Research to Market and beyond. They had confirmed an excellent multinational collaboration by creating a unique programme where of research centres, business schools, large corporations and investors came together to create an innovative way to support Robotics companies and help them to: 

•Minimize elevated costs associated with the development of specific technologies for market entry by equity-free funding and support provided 

•Provide access to technology services and facilities through RTOs engaged in the project (VTT, DTI, TU DELFT, PIAP, and Tecnalia

•Raise the advantages of robotics and automation in non-traditional markets through the RobotUnion Community and ecosystem created during the project 

•Improve their Funding Journey and raise additional private funds (Blumorpho

•Connect to the top-notch mentors and robotics experts in different strategic fields (ISDI

•Get international exposure through events and ecosystem building (FMWC and FBOX

THE ROBOTUNION APPROACH 

The project was shaped by the combination of 4 main layers (approaches) that interacted among each other both as links of a value chain and, as a sort of holistic forces that bridge the gap among research and market take-up and beyond, acting at the same time from both sides of this gap. These approaches can be summarized as follows: 

(1). Entrepreneurial discovery approach for discovery the more promising Scaleups. 

(2). Demand-side pull approach for listening to the “voice of the customer” and “bankable robotics challenges” all along the process. 

(3). Smart funding approach for fuelling the market deployment and the Scaleup process with ‘expert’ investors. 

(4). Technology-Push approach for guaranteeing that State-of-Art technologies and scientific outcomes are well-known from the very beginning by the innovative Scaleups. 

ACCELERATION JOURNEY 

From 2 Open Calls and more than 400 submitted applications, RobotUnion has selected 20 robotics scaleups with the biggest potential (see all of them here) who entered a 12-month acceleration program that became a perfect example of the technical acceleration for robotics startups. 

The Acceleration Programme was articulated as a customised service, where the high-level researchers and top business professionals are specifically selected to fit Scaleup’s needs and guide them along with the whole Program. It was divided into 4 phases with the selective funnel approach which enabled to fund the proposals with the highest technological and market potential.  

4 million euros were redistributed among the selected companies in direct funding and additional business and technical services.  

20 Companies engaged in both editions of the acceleration program reached ambitious goals in 3 main aspects: 

  • Technology: companies engaged in the project were able to use research resources (more than 40 researchers and 20 facilities engaged). That helped them to significantly raise their technical readiness level (3 points on average) and access new markets. Researchers engaged in the project published 10 Scientific research articles thank collaboration with accelerated companies. 
  • Business: thanks to the connection with experienced entrepreneurs and two Master Training Camps organized in Madrid (ISDI) accelerated companies were able to improve their business vision, improve absorption capabilities and network. More than 70 business mentors were involved in the program to help companies scale their business. 
  • Fundraising: all companies were exposed to the Investors during all the program through multiple events (Odense Invest SummitRobotUnion Venture Jury DayGR-EX expo). And the most promising 10 (called Super Stars) were invited to the Fundraising Journey with individual mentors advice. Total private funds raised by all companies engaged in the RobotUnion program reached an impressive number of 15M EUR. 

By putting all these together, RobotUnion allowed accelerating the expansion of promising robotics innovation makers in combining within the consortium all the key assets and resources for successful innovation: technical differentiation, entrepreneurial leadership, market access, productization and access to funding. 

LEADING ROBOTICS ECOSYSTEM 

RobotUnion has become one of the biggest and most influential initiatives for Robotics Scaleups in Europe. Though it´s intensive and ambitious communication campaign the RobotUnion ecosystem became one of the main references for Robotics SMEs with the Community that reached 1200 users and social media accounts with 3000 followers. 

During all the project duration RobotUnion team attended more than 15 events (4YFN, EU Robotics Forum, Automatica, Robotex) in 11 different countries of the European Union. Multiple panels and workshops were organized to bring the world of robotics closer to society, by focusing on the promotion of robotics technology in new markets where it’s underrepresented.  

RobotUnion has also engaged external Technical Providers through the RobotUnion Marketplace were robotics services are showcased to all the community.  

WHAT’S NEXT? 

From the beginning of the project, one of the main goals of the RobotUnion Acceleration Program has been to ensure the sustainability of the services and efforts provided by the project beyond the project’s lifetime. This included implementing this approach in the regions linked to the project by Research Organizations or any other intermediate entities and, finally, trying to extend it also to the European Regions focused on Robotics or some of the related sectors in their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3). 

Principal sustainability model called RobotUnion Instrument was based on the concept that each Euro invested in the RobotUnion Instrument by a Region or a Corporate, one Euro will be invested by the RobotUnion Instrument in the future of European robotics companies. 

RobotUnion Instrument and the lessons learned about the deployment of a smart regional specialization strategy were consulted with different European stakeholders and were presented during the Week of Regions and Cities organized by EC on 13th October 2020 through the workshop “Regional smart specialization: Robotics”.  

RobotUnion consortium network and ecosystem created around the project will continue promoting innovation network that brings together expertise in the field of robotics research, business and fundraising to support future #RoboticsChampions beyond the project. 

ABOUT ROBOTUNION 

RobotUnion is the first pan-European acceleration programme funded under the Horizon 2020 programme fully focused on scaleups and SMEs in the robotics sector. During the last 3 years, 14 partners have created one-in-all acceleration program that supported 20 companies to increase their capability and develop novel and innovative technologies in domains like Manufacturing, Agro Food, Healthcare and Civil infrastructure. 

https://robotunion.eu/  //  info@robotunion.eu  

2020 Odense Investor Summit

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On the 9th of December of 2020the Odense Investor Summit took place both online and in-person. Our nine RobotUnion Superstar Scale-ups that finished the Stage 4 of the program pitched their groundbreaking robotic solutions to investors, key stakeholders, and other companies. Additionally, a set of Keynote Speakers also shared valuable knowledge and their experience in the industry.

The event was led by two co-hosts, Martyna Waliszewska from Odense Invest and Johnny Killerup CEO and Co-Founder Converzion. They introduced the start-up representatives and the keynote speakers throughout the summit. The attendees were greeted by the Mayor of the City of Odense, Peter Rahbæk Juel, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Jeppe Kofod, who remarked that 800 million euros have taken place in Acquisitions since 2015 thanks to the Odense Investor Summit. 

The RobotUnion project started three years ago with the Kick Off meeting where all partners gathered in Odense. The project will end in the same place at the Odense Investor’s Summit. The project results and main mission were presented by Izabela Zrazinska from FundingBoxproject coordinator. RobotUnion was created to “stimulate startups and SMEs in the robotics sector to develop novel and challenging technology and systems applicable to new markets”. Afterwards, she remarked thathe program has attracted a lot of interest since its start in 2018 because it has received “over 400 applications”. Out of these applicants 20 companies have been accelerated thanks to the collaboration of 40 researchers engaged from 5 Research Centers that participated in the project and 26 business mentors engaged by ISDI. 

After the introductory speakers, the representatives of each the Superstars pitched their projects. The companies pitched in the following order: 

  • Kewazothe world’s first scaffolding system that enables companies to save up to 44% of labour costs in construction”. 
  • Tendo AB pitched their minimalistic exoskeleton that allows paralyzed users to grip and release objects. 
  • AetherBiomed explained that their product Zeus can be used for knee, shoulder, or industrial applications and it “allows amputees to use 14 different grip modes. 
  • CLIIN Robotics explained their automated hault cleaning robot. The speaker, Thomas Jørgensen, mentioned that most of the toxic paint from ships is released into the world’s oceans once the vessel is in service and explained how their Cargo Hold Cleaning Robot can clean almost all surfaces of the hault thanks to its powerful magnets and the high-pressured water. 
  • Rebartek is a robotic construction startup in Norway. They explained that their solution “has two parts. The first, is prefabricating the cage to save money and time for our customers – a factory. The second, a plugin for structural design software to help with their projects.” The software is smart enough to save 20% of the material and 30% of time of the construction site! 
  • Nido Robotics said: “our product is an end-to-end solution that allows the asset manager to carry out the inspection and reporting of the data that has been gathered”. 
  • Automato explained how they are creating the workforce of the future with robots that avoid food waste and detect infections on plants. 
  • Proxima Centauri talked about their machine that efficiently sorts animal products into the package containers, “with their products, customers can save up to 50% of costs”. 
  • Rigitech is a company that is developing network drone logistics in healthcare. “In Europe 1.2 billion euros are spent every year transporting samples to laboratories. Rigi is developing a network of delivery drones which are fully automated and transport the packages between laboratories”.

In between the pitches of the 9 superstars, a few keynote speakers who are professionals in the industry shared relevant information that is worth sharing. The following were the speakers and key information points that they shared: 

  • Dieter Kraft pointed out that Global VC investment remains strong, there are fewer larger-size deals, and that strategic innovation is not working anymore without open innovation. Dieter Kraft works at TRUMPF and he is a strategic investor that provides value add for start-ups and “expects creative provocation for R&D”. The main investment areas are photonics and laser manufacturing and smart manufacturing. He mentioned that “if the approach and the idea is good, cash is not an issue” and also said a very important point: “the innovation should be breakthrough in technology or business”. 
  • Cuong Nguyen said that “Most investors do not have the knowledge over technology”. He works at NTPC, and they are in charge of translating more technical language so the investors can understand. He also said: “Market scan, due diligenceownership, and exit. This is the process that investors undergo. The due diligence is a very important part. Companies should address key questions related to business and technology to satisfy the investors due diligence process!” 
  • Jürgen Von Hollen, from Universal Robot, explained that nowadays “there are many opportunities thanks to this phase of change. Big corporations really struggle to adapt to these new opportunities; thus it is time for startups to find and exploit them”. 

Overall, the Odense Investor Summit was very well organized and presented. It was structured in a way that would keep the audience engaged all-throughout and there were barely any technical errors! The knowledge and experience from the Start-up presenters gave very good insight about their projects and the trends in the robotics industry in Europe. Additionally, the Keynote Speakers gave insightful knowledge from their professional experience that will serve well for Start-ups and other stakeholders in the Robotics sector. Congratulations to the 9 Superstars for presenting bravely their groundbreaking solutions and hope that they made good business contacts for the future! 

 

Boost regional smart specialization strategy with Robotics: RobotUnion’s experience from EU Week of Regions and Cities

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Last October 13th, the EU Week of Regions and Cities gathered FundingBoxMobile World Capital BarcelonaInvest in Odense and MADE during the workshop “Regional smart specialization: Robotics” to share their insights about the deployment of a smart regional specialization strategy.

The RobotUnion project is the first pan-European acceleration programme in robotics that has been running since 2018 and now is reaching its final stage. For this reason, the partners decided to present some of the success stories that have been possible through the support of an exemplary partnership between business, research and technological institutions, robotics associations, and corporates. 

The workshop, moderated by Marta Portalés (MWCapital), was created with the aim to explain how to boost the regional investment strategy by developing a smart specialization in robotics and it was structured in three parts: 1) an introduction of the RobotUnion projects and its outcomes by Izabela Zrazinska 2) an explanation on how Denmark became a leading country in robotics, specifically the region of Odense by MADE and Invest in Odense; and finally, 3) the new funding opportunities in the robotics sector by Fundingbox. 

RobotUnion’s achievements:

RobotUnion’s project coordinator, Izabela Zrazinska (from FundingBox), introduced the most meaningful achievements along and some of its 20 solutions, which were selected from 424 applications submitted through 2 Open Calls. The solutions have been supported by the consortium of 14 partners from 6 European countries and is “a perfect representation of what smart specialization idea is about, because it’s based on the partnerships between business, public entities, and knowledge institutions”. 

The acceleration of the companies from the 1st Batch was achieved by the collaboration of over 40 researchers from 5 research centers, who helped boost the companies’ TRL levels by 3 points, on average, in one year. 10 startups, which ended up raising over €8 million in private investment in total, also benefitted from the involvement of 26 business mentors.

The consortium goal was to contribute to overcome systemic challenges (# innovation barriers) that are constraining the capability of European promising companies to develop novel and innovative technology that has the potential to open new markets for Robotics in domains like Manufacturing, Agro Food, Healthcare and Civil infrastructure. 

Some of the main technical challenges that European robotics SMEs struggle most are:

  • Limited access to technology services and facilities in many regions.
  • Lack of awareness of the availability of research organizations
  • Complexity of technology integration
  • High-cost technology acquisition

Other, non-technological barriers are:

  • Lack of internal capability to grow
  • Deficiencies in the external environment
  • Psychological barriers and misconceptions
  • Lack of awareness of added-value of robotics

The succeeding part of the session was divided into 3 presentations which were focused on the methodologies on how to boost robotics in a region.

 

Robotics clusters: Odense Invest and MADE 

The next speaker, Martyna Waliszewska, is a Junior Investment Manager at Invest in Odense. She explained how Odense has become the global centre of robotics and automation. In fact, over €800 million euros have been invested in robotic technology, and where considerably large acquisitions have taken place. Out of the 133 active companies in the city of Odense, three have been selected to join the RobotUnion program. The companies are: Proxima CentauriSmooth Robotics, and Tendo. The three winners have helped create jobs in Odense and attract foreign investment.

Invest in Odense has more than 30 years of experience developing Odense’s Robotic Cluster and the Robotic Startup Hub Incubator. Martyna talked about the different success stories that arised in the Danish city. 

There are three key activities to successfully develop and implement a regional specialization strategy:

  • Identify local capabilities
  • Establish a strong communication strategy and keep direct contact with local companies
  • Commit to long-term engagement and ambitions.

Martyna has appreciated the RobotUnion’s programme, because of its networking opportunities and a high level of expertise from the project consortium partners. She confirms that startups gainednew competitive advantages through the acceleration program.

Another key speaker was Merete Norby, an international senior consultant  from the Manufacturing Academy of Denmark (MADE). MADE comprises different members: more than 200 industries, 5 universities, and 9 educational institutions, and innovation partners. The Robotics Digital Innovation Hub that they are part of, links SMEs different services, such as financial advisory, (project openings and calls, innovation actions (SMEs can get help to test their technologies), and matchmaking services (between competence centres, European companies, and research and technological institutions.

As a case study, Merete presented the case of the startup Smooth Robotics that MADE supported through the RobotUnion programme. The company has been able to increase performance of welding production though robots by getting technical help, business coaching and financial aid provided by the consortium. The key point according to the International Senior Consultant would be inspiration and encouragement to reach success, having the connections to start the dialogue, a range of services and be part of a network: “Most of the impact is created by partners themselves and not by the association behind it, we are only a facilitator”.

 

FundingBox: The ecosystem for success 

The last participant of the workshop was Jakub Kruszelnicki, a Technology Transfer Expert from FundingBox, which distributes European grants through Open calls. He defends that RobotUnion has generated a lot of good practices among the robotic startup community.

 

According to Jakub, there is a huge demand for robotics-oriented acceleration programs. This fact has been confirmed by 424 SMEs, that applied to RobotUnion’s open calls, and nearly 30.000 innovators who are part of the Fundingbox community. FundingBox (FBOX) has distributed over €120 million in cascade-funding grants to SMEs and Digital Hubs from different industries, such as: Manufacturing, Digital Innovation Hubs, Education, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and others.

 Despite of the fact that RobotUnion is reaching its end, there are still open calls and opportunities to match knowledge with SMEs demands, click here to learn more.¨ 

At the end of the session Izabela Zrazinska shared the ways on how regions and other stakeholders can benefit from the RobotUnion program and connect to its ecosystem. 

 The video from the session is available:  

Vídeo: https://euregionsweek2020-video.eu/video/regional-smart-specialisation-robotics 

Venture Jury Day: Second batch

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2nd Batch RobotUnion Superstars selected!

On the 8th of October (2020) the 10 companies, accelerated by RobotUnion in the second batch of the programme, pitched in front of a jury of investors, who were then scored according to their investment potential. The 5 companies selected to enter Stage 4 of the programme, which lasts 3 months, will receive an additional €100K fundraising. Additionally, they will be mentored and supported to carry a pilot in real market conditions.

The RobotUnion Venture Jury Day, which took place in an online session, was organized by Blumorpho, whom will also lead the support for the selected companies on raising Private Funds in the next few months. 

The jury evaluated the pitch based on: market attractiveness, team quality, unique selling proposition, differentiation, business model attractiveness, goto market, and growth strategy. The final selection process took into account: technology and innovation, carried out by internal RobotUnion experts; and investment potential, assessed by a Guest Jury.

The event attracted over 6 investors who were interested in the 10 finalists (Bruno Bernardbtov Partners, Alfred LamChrysalix Venture Capital, Dominic KeenRaia Ventures, Patrick Courtney Tec Connection, and Klaus Kummermehr and Daniel Häring from Venture Capital – Go Beyond Investing).

The 10 contestants had the chance to pitch their idea, without surpassing the 3 minutes limit, and answer a short round of questions from the public. The finalists were chosen after a consensus meeting held by the consortium the next day. The participants were informed about the outcome after the session.

The winners will now enter the last stage of the programme and will receive and additional €100.000 funding. On top of that, they will receive the following mentoring on:

  • Private investment opportunities,with the support of Blumorpho the VC Chrysalix and Odense Seed & Ventures. 
  • Participate in the Odense Investor Summit  to be held on the 9th of December  
  • Identifying public funding available. 
  • Preparing a proof of concept in real market conditions.
  • Connecting to corporates and arranging partnership agreements.

Congratulations to all RobotUnion companies involved and to the 5 RobotUnion Superstars!

Aether Biomedical  is a medical robotics company focused on biosignal processing and bionic limbs for upper limb amputees. Their flagship product Zeus is a multi-action bionic limb combining ease of control with an elegant, robust design.

Automato Robotics develops the world’s first affordable robotic tomato harvester for soil greenhouses. Their aim is to make an affordable and reliable robot that will allow meeting the current agricultural challenges.

Proxima Centauri Aps’ patented solution is developed to automate the picking up and sorting of natural pig casings used in the sausage industry.

Rebartek is taking reinforcement to the next level. The company prefabricates rebar cages for construction sites using robots.

RigiTech is transforming access to goods through autonomous aerial logistics by creating a fully-integrated, inter-city drone delivery solution.the

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