Vanderlande will obtain a minority shareholder interest in the robotics development company Smart Robotics, which is based in Best near Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The investment will create a focus on robotic technology development for logistic purposes, through a joint research and development (R&D) multi-year programme, and commitment through co-ownership.
Founded in 2015 as a spin-off of the Eindhoven University of Technology, Smart Robotics develops, sells and rents modular collaborative robots (or 'cobots') that can be configured for specific tasks. Its solutions are utilised for a variety of processes such as order picking and placing, (de)palletising, and kitting and bagging where human operators are involved.
The company's software platform is central to its solutions and allows for the integration of cutting-edge technology, such as vision sensors, artificial intelligence and grippers. For two-and-a-half years, Smart Robotics received support and venture capital from the Brabant Development Agency (BOM). "BOM's vision on robotics is strongly aligned with ours, and the collaboration was a perfect strategic fit in the startup phase," says Smart Robotics' Managing Director Mark Menting.
"BOM helped us to develop and become the successful and profitable organisation we are today. Now, Vanderlande has taken up the baton to help scale up Smart Robotics internationally. They have the product-market combination that we need to reach our new goals. Our financial relationship with BOM might end here but we will definitely keep working together to create awareness, strengthen the already well-developed robotics ecosystem in Brabant, and build a promising innovative future for robotics."
In a rapidly changing logistics market, having direct access to new robotic development and integration capabilities will continue to be important for system integrators, particularly in warehousing and the parcel segments. The partnership between Vanderlande and Smart Robotics will see the creation of a mutually beneficial roadmap through a joint R&D programme. A key development area will be item picking capabilities so as to further strengthen e-commerce warehousing solutions.
With this investment, both organisations are expected to benefit from an increased focus, accelerated time to market, and a solid platform for the development and commercialisation of joint solutions. Vanderlande will continue to provide R&D capabilities and funding – as well as outsource a number of projects – to Smart Robotics.
"We're delighted that we have the opportunity to work more closely with such a dynamic and innovative organisation," says Vanderlande's Technology Manager Fred Verstraaten. "This is a highly attractive growth market to be involved in at the current time and we see a strong strategic and cultural fit between our companies. However, for both parties, it will remain business as usual. The investment will accelerate developments and sharpen our focus in this progressive field."