Despite the slowdown in the global economy last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, investments, mergers, and acquisitions have continued apace in robotics and automation. In the first quarter of 2021, such transactions totaled more than $17 billion (U.S.).
Robotics 24/7 tracked more than 20 transactions worth over $100 million each in the first quarter of 2021. As in the past few years, companies developing and producing autonomous vehicles, mobile robots, and 3D printing received the most funding. Artificial intelligence processors and surgical robots were also represented in the top transactions of Q1.
Automation investments by industry
By industry, aerial drones for defense, security, and infrastructure inspection were involved in $8.2 billion worth of Q1 transactions, but that was because of Teledyne Technologies' $8 billion acquisition of FLIR Systems.
The next biggest sector was transportation—mainly around autonomous cars and trucks—with more than $3.3 billion in deals. Although SAE Level 5 autonomy may still be years away, significant progress has been made as robotic taxicabs begin trials without safety drivers in several cities worldwide.
Companies providing industrial automation for manufacturers raised nearly $2.7 billion in the first quarter, including some mergers with special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), a recent trand in venture capital. Additive manufacturing contributed to this total.
After that was supply chain and logistics, with more than $1.7 billion in reported transactions. This is not surprising, given the surge in e-commerce during the pandemic and ongoing interest in robots for materials handling and delivery.
Healthcare companies, mostly providers of surgical robotics, were involved in more than $250 million worth of deals, followed by agricultural robots, with more than $130 million in total transactions.
Note that this slideshow of the top 10 robotics transactions is not a comprehensive listing of the dozens of deals announced worldwide last quarter. Of course, not every company is public and required to disclose the amount it has obtained or from whom. In addition, companies making several robotics-adjacent technologies, such as software or batteries, have also received funding. Technology journalists rely on press releases and market analysis firms for gathering this data, so let us know if we missed anything!
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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