A new investment fund by a Vancouver-based venture capital group and an alliance of robotics professionals in the Netherlands plan to invest €100 million ($113.6 million) into robo-startups around the world, according to a joint statement this past week.
The RoboValley Fund, named after the RoboValley Innovation Hub located near the Hague leading the charge, will likely focus on seed and early stage funding. RoboValley touts 170 members from a variety of AI and robotics-related disciplines and is based out of the Delft University of Technology. The investment strategy will be managed and led by Chrysalix Venture Capital.
According to Markets and Markets, the industrial robotics market is predicted to reach a value of nearly $80 billion by 2022.
“Robotics is predicted to be the next big step in the digital revolution having an unprecedented impact on the way that we live, and provides an answer to some of the grand challenges of the 21st century,” said RoboValley’s managing director, Arie van den Ende. “Together with Chrysalix long-standing expertise in commercializing early stage industrial innovations, the RoboValley Fund will bring much needed capital and accelerated paths to market for our most promising next generation robotics technologies.”
Investors see energy benefits from robots automating factory jobs
Chrysalix focuses on industrial and alternative energy technologies. The former seems the clear reason for backing this new fund. A growing catharsis for economy planners is the increasing reliance on automation at factories, eliminating thousands of manufacturing jobs.
That issue was brought into stark relief by Foxconn’s announcement that it would cut 60,000 manufacturing jobs in favor of robotic assembly. The phenomenon is also leading some Silicon Valley firms like Y Combinator to research “basic income,” anticipating that many blue-collar workers won’t be able to find new work in a new economy.
“Global technology in robotics is advancing very quickly yet today there is no international pure-play venture capital fund focused on robotics and so closely aligned with a robotics ecosystem,” said RoboValley Fund Managing Partner Mike Sherman in a press release. “Many breakthrough technologies are stranded in universities and national labs with insufficient early-stage funding available to help them commercialize and scale.”
Sherman is referring to “technology transfer,” i.e. getting new tech out of development and niche use stages and bringing them to a wider general market. An example of a wider concerted effort at such adaptation is the European Space Agency’s network of incubators for startups built on transferred technology that are spinning it for consumer applications.
Sherman noted that, “RoboValley and Delft University of Technology have an outstanding reputation for being on the cutting edge of modern robotics research and development, with exclusive access to emerging technologies as well as leading professors and industry experts worldwide, and we are pleased to be partnered with them on this new fund.”