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Investors bet big on Chinese robot makers amid the COVID-19 pandemic

From manufacturing to service sector, robots are playing a bigger role in China.

PuduTech robots 2 PuduTech robots. Photo provided to KrASIA

While COVID-19 is still affecting people’s lives, industries that help reduce human contact, such as the robotics, are gaining financial support from investors.

Shenzhen-based service robot maker PuduTech said on Wednesday that the company has closed nearly RMB 100 million (USD 14.5 million) Series B+ round led by Sequoia Capital China and joined by earlier investors including Chinese on-demand delivery giant Meituan Dianping.

This round comes less than two months after the startup, which has rolled out robots that deliver goods to diners inside restaurants, closed its more than RMB 100 million Series B round led by Meituan in early July.

“Robots are a new type of labor and the sector is where we have paid constant attention to,” Guo Shanshan, partner of Sequoia, said on Wednesday. “Demand for such labor is increasing and I believe that service robots will soon become a must for many industries.”

     Read this: Meituan raises bet on autonomous robots with investment in PuduTech

Beijing-based industrial robot maker Rokae also disclosed on Wednesday that the firm raised RMB 100 million from Xianghe Capital in its Series C1 round, 36Kr has learned.

Rokae produces robotic arms which can fulfill some tasks in manufacturing, such as polishing the rear panel of smartphones, cleaning printing machines while there are still operational, and glue spreading.

Its products have been widely used in automotive, consumer electronics, and medical sectors and have been exported to more than 10 countries, including Germany, France, Russia, Japan, and South Korea.

Shenzhen-based Standard Robots, which develops laser-navigation robots that deliver items inside warehouses, closed its RMB 100 million Series B round, in late July. Two months earlier, the company just got a strategic investment from Miracle Plus, which was founded in late 2018 by Lu Qi, former Baidu president and former CEO of YC China.

Another warehouse delivery robot maker VisionNav, which is also based in Shenzhen, scored RMB 100 million, in June.

       Read this: Building intelligent warehousing solutions for the future: Inside China’s Startups

In May, Shanghai-based Fourier Intelligence, which develops robots to assist patients recover after mobility-related injuries, bagged tens of millions of yuan, in its Series B+ round. The company has not disclosed the exact sum of money raised, but said that proceeds from this round plus a Series B round in July 2019 total nearly RMB 100 million (USD 14.1 million).

       Read this: Robot devices give patients a chance to walk again: Inside China’s Startups

While makers of robots working on the land are gaining favor, companies that produce robots working in waters are not neglected.

Sublue, which has developed remotely operated underwater vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles for ocean survey, underwater rescue, underwater pollution and explosives inspection, raised RMB 120 million (USD 17 million) from investors including SDIC Unity Capital and V Star Capital, in July.

The Chinese Institute of Electronics predicted in August 2019, ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak, that the country’s industrial robot market will reach USD 7 billion and service robot market will amount to USD 4 billion  by 2021.