Research is all about being the first, but commercialization is all about repeatability, not just many times but every single time. This was one of the key takeaways from the Transitioning Research From Academia to Industry panel during the National Robotics Initiative Foundational Research in Robotics PI Meeting on March 10 2021. I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion between Lael Odhner, Co-Founder of RightHand Robotics, Andrea Thomaz, Co-Founder/CEO of Diligent Robotics and Assoc Prof at UTexas Austin, and Kel Guerin, Co-Founder/CIO of READY Robotics.
RightHand Robotics, Diligent Robotics and READY Robotics are young robotics startups that have all transitioned from the ICorps program and SBIR grant funding into becoming venture backed robotics startups. RightHand Robotics was founded in 2014 and is a Boston based company that specializes in robotics manipulation. It is spun out of work performed for the DARPA Autonomous Robotics Manipulation program and has since raised more than $34.3 million from investors that include Maniv Mobility, Playground and Menlo Ventures.
Diligent Robotics is based in Austin where they design and build robots like Moxi that assist clinical staff with routine activities so they can focus on caring for patients. Diligent Robotics is the youngest startup, founded in 2017 and having raised $15.8 million so far from investors that include True Ventures and Ubiquity Ventures. Andrea Thomaz maintains her position at UTexas Austin but has taken leave to focus on Diligent Robotics.
READY Robotics creates unique solutions that remove the barriers faced by small manufacturers when adopting robotic automation. Founded in 2016, and headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, the company has raised more than $41.8 million with investors that include Drive Capital and Canaan Capital. READY Robotics enables manufacturers to more easily deploy robots to the factory floor through a patented technology platform that combines a very easy to use programming interface and plug’n’play hardware. This enables small to medium sized manufacturers to be more competitive through the use of industrial robots.
To summarize the conversation into 8 key takeaways for startups.
And for robotics startups that don’t have immediate access to universities, then robotics clusters can provide similar assistance. From large clusters like RoboValley in Odense, MassRobotics in Boston and Silicon Valley Robotics which have startup programs, space and prototyping equipment, to smaller robotics clusters that can still provide a connection point to other resources.