Neura Robotics, a German startup that has been developing cognitive robots (cobots,” as Neura names them) since 2019, has raised $55 million. Cognitive robots are machines with memory, the ability to operate across a complex and changing set of variables, and the ability to collaborate with humans.
It plans to use the funds to generate more R&D and expand its business in Asia and the United States. Some of the funds will also be used to bolster manufacturing; the company’s order book for the next five years is now $450 million.
David Reger, Neura’s CEO, and founder, told TechCrunch, “The actual demand from our customers is significantly higher, but our production capacities are still limiting.” (Reger is depicted with some of Neura’s robots in the image above.)
Lingotto, an investment management company affiliated with private equity firm Exor N.V., along with Vsquared Ventures, Primepulse, and HV Capital, are providing the funding. The valuation is not disclosed, but the transaction is a turning point for the startup.
Han’s Group, a China-based conglomerate best known for real estate development but also with holdings in hotel operation and property management, equipment manufacturing, and healthcare, was the sole strategic investor in Neura’s previous funding round of approximately $80 million. Prior to this recent investment, the company, according to Reger, decided to buy out the previous investor to make room for financial investors.
Due to time constraints, he told TechCrunch in an email interview, “In today’s deglobalized world, we have determined that Neura as an independent company has much more potential worldwide and that a partnership is more advantageous for both companies.”
Neura is among the robotics firms that have delivered more than others, despite the fact that there is a great deal of vaporware and “coming soon”-ware in the field of advanced autonomous systems.
Currently, the company has three models that encompass both robotic arms and more “human” forms: the MAV mobile robot, the LARA “high-end cobot,” and MAiRA, which it describes as the “world’s first cognitive robot.” The company’s business model appears to be primarily B2B and possibly B2B2C for the time being. Reger stated that one of its clients, the Japanese company Kawasaki, “is already selling its own cobot series based on our platform.”
Prices for industrial models vary from €5,000 to €40,000, whereas a forthcoming MiPA service robot designed for offices, care facilities, and homes “will be priced well below ten thousand euros.”
Before founding Neura, Reger had spent seven years in the robotics industry, both in management positions and in the development of industrial robots. According to his LinkedIn profile, he appears to have focused less on the technical and more on the conceptual aspects of R&D. However, this may have given him an advantage in establishing his own robotics business, as he had a strong understanding of what customers were seeking.
In virtually all industrial projects, he explained, “we had to adapt the existing environment to the robot—typically in a very complex and costly manner—in order to satisfy the stringent safety requirements.
“The industry had been doing this for decades without much opposition. “However, I was convinced that it would make more sense, in the long run, to modify the robots so that they could be used safely in any environment alongside humans,” he said.
It was evident to me, even in the year 2019, that it was possible to equip robots with senses and give them the ability to swiftly and safely process perceptions.
In a mature industry, however, it can be difficult to abandon the comfort zone and venture into uncharted territory. Otherwise, an alternative to the internal combustion engine would have existed much earlier. Therefore, I founded my own company to actualize my cognitive robotics concept.”
Reger’s “casual” definition of cognitive robotics reveals something about the functionality the company intends to build into its machines. “I would say that smartphones are coming with arms and legs,” he says about Neura’s products. In other words, assistants who alleviate us not only virtually but also in a very real sense Physically.”
The platform that Neura has developed can be trained and operated in any language or dialect, he said, and it works both online and offline. Additionally, cobots are equipped with sensors and safety features that allow them to stop or adjust their movements if they come into contact with a human, according to Reger.
The company’s major wager is that integrating software and hardware is the future of this industry. This includes not only crafting the sensors and other components but also developing the AI that drives them. With a platform that partners can use to collaboratively develop specialized apps in areas such as welding, warehousing, gluing, sanding, and assembly, Neura can also work more closely with its customers.
“If you’re serious about software, you need to embrace hardware,” said Dr. Herbert Mangesius, general partner at Vsquared Ventures. This is especially true for robotic automation and has been a bottleneck for many years in introducing advanced machine learning and cognitive capabilities to the industrial and service sectors.
Neura Robotics is the first company we’ve encountered that combines this technological vision and leadership with an open partnership model, thereby propelling global robotics advancement at an unprecedented rate.”
Reger stated that Neura plans to expand more directly into the consumer market in the future.
“We are focusing on industrial applications such as welding, warehousing, gluing, sanding, and assembly, but all of our know-how and technology goes into our MiPA service robot platform, which can help in offices, in care, and even in the home,” he said. The objective is to maintain the current rate and deliver the cognitive “one-device robotic platform” within two years.
Humanoid robots by Neura that collaborate with humans across various societal domains and within human-designed environments could be a reality in just a couple of years and provide a solution to the general shortage of skilled workers,” said Reger.
However, the company is not vertically integrated to the extent that it will not work with third parties: its artificial intelligence can be used on any robot via an API it provides, and the hardware it manufactures has both an app ecosystem and Neura’s willingness to work with customers to develop whatever they require.
“We provide a global technology platform to which robotics partners from around the globe can connect. Our components and robots combine countless concepts and industry-specific expertise,” he continued. This makes possible, in a very short period of time, a number of special applications that we could not service on our own.
This is best compared to a smartphone and its operating system, which only came to life and became indispensable after millions of applications were developed in various industries. He claims that the corporation has even given this objective a name: “the Neuraverse.”
In a market with numerous proprietary approaches, it is indeed an ambitious concept, but investors appear confident that Neura can succeed. ” Neura operates at the intersection of AI and hardware engineering. Germany and Europe have a distinct advantage in this regard, according to Nikhil Srinivasan, managing partner at Lingotto.