Clearpath Robotics, a global robotics company dedicated to automating the world’s dullest, dirtiest and deadliest jobs with intelligent service robots, today announced it has raised $14 million CAD ($11.2 million USD) led by RRE Ventures with participation from iNovia Capital.
The company will use the funds to aggressively expand its robotics portfolio for industrial applications and continue its mission of building robots that improve human lives. RRE co-founder and managing partner Stuart Ellman will join Clearpath’s board of directors.
“Throughout history, people have turned to technology to improve our quality of life, and that has always been Clearpath’s goal. We believe in using service robots to make the world a better place,” said Clearpath CEO and co-founder Matt Rendall. “With this funding, we will produce intelligent industrial robots to do the jobs that humans shouldn’t do.”
McKinsey & Co. estimates that the application of advanced robotics across healthcare, manufacturing, and services could generate a potential economic impact of $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion per year by 2025, and the use of advanced robots for industrial and service tasks will match the output of 40 million to 75 million full-time workers. Businesses in developing economies will be among the biggest buyers based on the current rate of automation, but the ability of robots to be more productive at lower costs will also enable North American businesses to draw more manufacturing back onshore because they would no longer have to chase cheap labor, while also providing jobs to domestic workers in developing, servicing, or working with the robots.
“Robots are changing the way industrial work gets done,” Ellman said. “Organizations are realizing that automating dull and dangerous work is not only the right choice for workers, it’s also more efficient and saves money. Clearpath has the vision, talent and track record to lead the service robotics industry.”
Record of Ethical Robotics
Clearpath was the first robotics company to join the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots and vow never to make robots that autonomously decide when and where to fire weapons. The company plans to apply similar ethical standards as it expands from rugged outdoor robots to industrial robotics. Born out of a University of Waterloo robotics team and officially launched in 2009, Clearpath has been ethically ambitious since the beginning. The founders got their start participating in a U.S. Army-funded competition to design a robot that detected and removed land mines, and the Husky unmanned ground vehicle was born. With help from a $360,000 angel investment the following year, the team pivoted from mine-removal to providing reliable unmanned vehicles for to help researchers innovate faster. Clearpath became profitable just 18 months after launch.
Today, Husky has become the company’s flagship product. It enables researchers to inspect and map environments, such as underground mines, that would be harmful or deadly to humans. The Husky is part of Clearpath’s autonomous vehicle fleet, which also includes the Kingfisher unmanned surface vehicle, the Grizzly robotic utility vehicle and several others capable of exploring land, water and air. Clearpath will now extend its products into a vertical with unmanned vehicles for industry to automate error-prone and unsafe materials-handling. The new vehicles operate as driverless cars for industry with sensors collecting data from the environment and feeding it to the robots so they can “decide” how to complete tasks most efficiently.
“Manufacturing facilities are organized chaos,” Rendall said. “Our autonomous robots remove some chaos to optimize throughput, making it possible for manufacturers to significantly reduce costs while taking their workers out of harm’s way.”
A Great Fit with RRE
RRE has a history of discovering category-defining companies in emerging industries and supporting their visionary founders. They’ve accomplished that with BuzzFeed in content, Makerbot in 3-D printing, Venmo in peer-to-peer payments and, most recently, Jibo and Airware in robotics. With this new partnership, Clearpath will benefit from RRE’s connections and expertise in robotics and the broader technology industry.
“RRE was our first choice from the beginning,” Rendall said. “They have a history of making smart investments in megatrends before they are popular, and they don’t shy away from hardware and other more complex business models – like Makerbot. We couldn’t be happier to have RRE in our corner.”