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Foresight Williams doubles investment in UK cobot start-up

28 July, 2020

The Foresight Williams Technology EIS fund is investing a further £1.45m in the UK collaborative robotics start-up Inovo Robotics to accelerate its growth and help it expand internationally. The fund initially invested £1.5m in Inovo in 2018 to help get its first product to market.

Inovo was founded in 2016 by engineers Henry Wood and Jonathan Cheung, who had previously worked at the defence technology company, Northrup Grumman. Their idea was to develop a competitively priced, modular cobot (collaborative robot) that could be adapted easily to achieve different combinations of reach and payload, rather than having to buy multiple robots for individual tasks. Easy-to-use software allows even non-specialists to re-program the cobots quickly for new tasks.

“Having the support from the Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund has allowed us to significantly accelerate the development of the business,” says Wood. “Closing this second round of investment is testament to the strong relationship with FWT and a deep shared belief in the scale of the market opportunity”.

Foresight – an infrastructure and private equity investment manager – has helped Inovo to identify new opportunities and build a growth strategy. And experts at Williams have helped to solve some of the technical challenges that it has encountered.

The Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have given the already-expanding cobot market an added boost, with automation expected to play an increasingly important role in the post-pandemic workplace. Inovo’s cobots can perform manual tasks previously done by humans, resulting in fewer human interactions and safer working conditions for employees.

The modular design of Inovo’s cobots allows them to be adapted to suite the payload and reach requirements of individual applications

“Inovo has made excellent progress since our initial investment and is now poised to capitalise on the growing need for automation in the workplace,” says Matthew Burke, head of technology ventures at Williams Advanced Engineering.

“It has been a pleasure to see Inovo bring its product to market since our initial investment in late 2018,” adds Andrew Bloxam, a senior investment manager at Foresight. “Now, with strong interest from customers and the need for automation solutions like cobots growing rapidly, we are delighted to invest again and support the company as it scales up.”

In 2010, Williams Grand Prix Engineering started to diversify, leading to the establishment of the Williams Advanced Engineering division. In December 2019, it sold a majority stake in Williams Advanced Engineering to EMK Capital, retaining a significant minority stake. Williams Advanced Engineering currently employs 350 people and the EMK investment has unlocked potential for further growth.

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