Initiatives and Funds for Robotics
Starting a company is always a challenge. This obviously applies to all areas including young high tech ones such as robotics. We briefly report here some of the most recent actions in favor of robotics’ start ups.
When it comes to funding, the first reflex is to look for a venture capitalist (VC). In the US, there are several VCs that did invest in robotics $160 million. Europe tries to catch up. Robolution capital was launched by the end of January 2012. With a target of 60 million euros, Robolution capital claims to be the 1st European fund dedicated to service robotics.
Beyond VCs and business angels, there exist other sources for cash. Large companies invest into smaller ones. This is the case of Intel that invests every year hundreds of millions into smaller businesses. In 2011, Intel did lead a $13 million investment in Aldebaran Robotics, the French startup famous for its Nao humanoid robot (see Video 1).
Video 1: Nao humanoid robot by Aldebaran Robotics
Other sources for cash are online crowdsourced funding platforms. For example, Kickstarter did enabled funding the Romo project. The product showcased in Video 2, a robotic dock for iPhone and Android powered smartphones, has been demoed at the CES 2012.
Although money is important, it’s not enough. Different institutions and groups around the world aim at providing all support and environment for fostering the emergence of new companies and new products in the field of robotics. In Denmark for example, RoboCluster seeks to develop a network gathering researchers, industries, as well as education institutions. In Sweden, Robotdalen is a similar initiative. Its Communications Manager Jessica Karlsson was interviewed on the European Robotics (Part 1) episode of the Robots Podcast on April, the 22nd 2011. Early February 2012, Robotdalen organized an event where Rodney Brooks gave the keynote talk featured by Video 3. Another, almost 2 hours long video gathers all the 3 keynote speeches. It also includes a panel (the last 40 minutes) where the invited speakers discuss and answer questions from the audience.
Video 3: Keynote speech by Rodney Brooks at the Robotdalen’s 2012 Robotics Innovation Challenge
Similar initiatives exist on the US side. On the state level, there are clusters such as the Robotics Cluster of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC). Created back in 2005, The MassTLC gathers companies including iRobot and academia such as the MIT labs.
There are also nation-wide initiatives. On June 2011 during his visit to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). This national effort is aimed to push forward the US industry and economy by fostering partnerships between businesses, federal agencies and universities, specifically in emerging technologies.
Video 4: Obama’s speech at CMU, june 24th 2011
In his speech (see Video 4), Obama did explicitly cite robotics as one of these new technologies to invest on. Indeed, AMP translates into 4 key actions, one of which is the National Robotics Initiative. The federal government made $70 million available for projects targeting the next generation of robots. Yet another $40 extra million are provided by the DoD, as announced on August 3rd 2011.