The Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION) brought together the inventors and entrepreneurs at the Invest in Robotics and AI event at Culham earlier this month.
It followed hot on the heels of the £68million of investment awarded from the Government’s Industrial Strategy to the latest ground-breaking research and innovation projects in robotics and AI systems.
The event started with introductions from Jens Tholstrup, OION managing director, and Eileen Modral, OION investment network manager, before RACE Director Rob Buckingham outlined the importance of robotics in driving growth in the UK economy.
“Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are key drivers of economic growth” he said. “Our vision for Culham is to build on the strength of this technology, and to bring together investors, entrepreneurs and academics to help achieve this.”
The key part of the Dragons’ Den like event saw 10 companies pitch for five minutes each. Each was informative and well delivered.
First up was Andrei Danescu, CEO of BotsAndUs, and he introduced investors to ‘Bo’ – a customer facing robot for commercial environments. ‘Bo’ has the ability to understand human interactions and make recommendations across a range of hospitality and retail settings.
He was followed by Dashboard CEO Piers Corfield – a company which specialises in infrastructure monitoring to mitigate risks. Dashboard wants to capitalise on machine learning to realise intelligent infrastructure systems such as pipelines, bridges and wind turbines.
Investors then heard from innovative software development company D-RisQ about advanced tools which show how software controlled systems function as specified.
Graeme Cox, CEO of Emteq, followed this by talking about how his AI company is aiming to understand human emotion – an area he said would be the next big dataset.
One company offering something slightly different was Hummingbird, as CEO Will Wells explained how his company used artificial intelligence in agriculture. Hummingbird uses drone and satellite imagery to help farmers detect problems early on with crop growth.
The pitches were interspersed with a panel discussion including Professor Barry Lennox – a professor of Applied Control in the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester – in addition to Professor Paul Beasley, Head of R&D for Siemens, and UKAEA’s Rob Buckingham.
Professor Lennox highlighted how all universities were investing in AI and robotics. “It’s seen as an area where universities alongside academic research can really contribute. I’ve spoken to international academics who have been very jealous of how the UK is investing in this field.”
Rob Buckingham added: “Autonomous vehicles will be a market which helps us work out how robotics and AI can be used much more broadly – it’s one of the fastest growing sectors with a lot of money being invested.”
It was then the turn of the five other companies to pitch.
Henry Wood of Inovo Robotics introduced his modular robotic arm geared for the manufacturing industry. The key aim was to assist companies producing batches of products by reducing operational costs.
John Mawhood, CEO of Retinopathy Answer, told the audience how the diabetes healthcare epidemic called for an opportunity to develop second-generation artificial intelligence (AI) image diagnostics systems. RetinaScan was a faster system, he said, as well as offering higher accuracy and lower costs.
Meanwhile robotics company Tethered Drone Systems presented their unmanned multi-copters used for aerial surveillance and broadcasting. Attached via a tether, they can fly near continuously without the need for constant battery power.
The last two pitches came from Voltrics, a company specialising in electromechanical connectors for robotics and architecture, and Thiago Azevedo, CEO of ZOA Robotics, who introduced his business which focuses on utilising four-legged robots capable of delivering industrial inspection reports.
Jens Tholstrup, OION managing director, said: “The investor showcase event that we hosted in collaboration with RACE at Culham saw ten exciting and ambitious robotics and AI early stage businesses present in front of around 90 investors. In addition to the interest generated by the presenting companies, the investors were intrigued by tours of JET and RACE and witnessing the important world-leading scientific research being conducted at Culham.”
Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION) has been in existence since 1994 and works with entrepreneurs and companies seeking to raise finance by connecting them with potential investors.