10 automation start-ups in Europe to keep an eye on

26 Jun 2024

Image: © Timur/Stock.adobe.com

This Automation Week, we look at some of Europe’s most promising start-ups across all sizes and sectors that are riding a wave of recent tech advancements in hardware and software to make our lives easier.

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Ever since the advent of generative AI, automation as a sector within the world of tech has assumed a whole new meaning. Tasks that were once thought to be exclusively within the domain of human ability are now increasingly being taken up by large language models developed by the likes of OpenAI to make our lives ostensibly simpler.

As such, it is easy to miss out on some of the developments being made in the hardware space, such as robots that can do everything from cleaning your house to helping you build one! This year, we’re look at a host of start-ups across Europe (with a healthy dose of Irish companies in the mix) grabbing the attention of investors and consumers alike, thanks to innovative hardware, software and everything in between.

1X

It is fitting that we start this year’s list with Norwegian robotics start-up 1X because it is by most accounts the most exciting (but also the fact that it comes alphanumerically first).

Based in Oslo, 1X creates humanoid robots that can perform labour-intensive commercial and domestic tasks alongside humans. Its two flagship products are EVE (works with commercial teams in areas such as logistics and security) and NEO (an eerily human-like robot that can help humans with daily tasks at home such as cleaning). 1X is backed by some big names, including OpenAI and Tiger Global. It raised $100m in January to accelerate the development of NEO, which is coming soon.

AirForestry

Our second Nordic pick for this list, Sweden’s AirForestry has found a novel way to thin forests by taking an aerial approach – using drones.

Based in Uppsala, a city to the north of Stockholm and not far from Sweden’s vast forests up north, the start-up has developed a fleet of electric harvesting drones which can swiftly thin forests from the air without damaging the ground or surrounding trees. The idea is to reduce carbon emissions in the process while increasing a forest’s ability to sequester carbon.

Automata

London-based Automata wants to make the best of both worlds – hardware and software – to automate science labs. The start-up has developed an innovative platform that allows users to integrate different lab instruments to design, schedule and run experiments. Founded by Mostafa ElSayed and Suryansh Chandra in 2015, Automata’s mission statement is to empower scientists around the world with the power of automation in labs by reducing tedious manual tasks. It raised $40m last October to accelerate its growth in Europe and the US.

Fonoa

One of Ireland’s leading start-ups, Fonoa was founded in 2019 by three Uber alumni: Davor Tremac, Filip Sturman and Ivan Ivankovic. The Dublin-based tax automation start-up has been tipped as one of the Irish companies that are most likely to achieve unicorn status soon. Fonoa has developed a plug-and-play platform that allows customers to automate all relevant aspects to ensure tax compliance globally. It raised $60m in July 2022 led by New York VC firm Coatue.

Monumental

This Dutch start-up has taken on a monumental task: to automate construction using hardware design, machine vision and software.

Founded by serial entrepreneurs CEO Salar al Khafaji and CTO Sebastiaan Visser, Monumental builds construction robots. These small, electric, autonomous ground vehicles move freely around the rough terrain of construction sites to perform labour-intensive tasks such as bricklaying. The founders hope this can address acute labour shortages in the construction industry and automate the task with accuracy and efficiency. It raised $25m in February to scale the advanced AI-powered robots across Europe.

Numra

Formerly known as Autonifai, Numra is an Irish automation platform that uses AI to streamline complex workflows for finance and accounting teams with tasks such as data entry, reconciliations and error investigations. Users can interact with the tool over email, Microsoft Teams and Slack, among other platforms. The idea is to help companies save time and reduce errors.

Numra was founded last year by David Kearney (co-founder of Peblo, which was acquired by Wayflyer) and Conor Digan (formerly of Wonder and GetYourGuide). It raised €1.5m in a funding round led by Elkstone Partners last month to increase its headcount and expand to the US market.

Oblivious

Another start-up based in Dublin, Oblivious was founded by two Oxford PhD graduates: Jack Fitzsimons and Robert Pisarczyk. The automation start-up builds tools that allow data scientists and machine learning models to work on sensitive data while aiming to enforce confidentiality requirements and brokering trust between businesses. It raised €5.35m in April led by Berlin-based Cavalry Ventures.

The former Start-up of the Week works with two core underlying technologies: trusted execution environments (TEEs) and differential privacy. “When we combine these two techniques, we get a very secure and private way of handling, combining and processing sensitive data,” Fitzsimons told SiliconRepublic.com last year.

PolyAI

Another London-based start-up on this list (the UK is big on automation), PolyAI creates AI voice assistants for call centres. It was founded in 2017 by Nikola Mrkšić, Tsung-Hsien Wen and Pei-Hao Su after the three met at Cambridge University. To create these voice assistants, PolyAI uses both its own proprietary large language model as well as those made by OpenAI.

Last month, the fast-growing start-up raised $50 million in a Series C round backed by the likes of Nvidia, Hedosophia and Khosla Ventures. PolyAI is now valued at close to $500m.

RobCo

Germany has a reputation for being the manufacturing powerhouse of Europe, and Munich-based RobCo is on a mission to revolutionise manufacturing in small and medium-sized company settings with its innovative plug-and-play robots.

Founded in 2020 by three researchers at the Technical University of Munich, RobCo develops flexible robotic hardware kits for various applications in SME manufacturing, such as machine loading and unloading or palletising. The robots are designed to cater specifically to smaller companies due to their ability to be reprogrammed for changing tasks. RobCo raised $42.5m in a funding round led by Lightspeed in February.

Tines

A no-code automation start-up based in Dublin and Boston, Tines is one of Ireland’s most recognisable start-ups. It was one of two Irish start-ups declared to be ‘soonicorns’ by Sifted, alongside Fonoa, in 2022. Tines was founded by Eoin Hinchy and Thomas Kinsella in 2018 and is a previous SiliconRepublic.com Start-up of the Week. Just two months ago, Tines raised $50m in an extended Series B funding round led by Accel and Felicis. The round was an extension of a previous Series B funding in which it raised $26m.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com