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Twenty start-ups in robotics have a chance this   to win a total of 220,000 euros from a European subsidy pot as part of the Horizon 2020 innovation program. This will enable them to pay for the further development of their start-up. These are amongst others the Delft-based company IMSystems, which is developing a new type of gearbox for production robots, and the Amsterdam-based company MX3D, which produces software for robotically-controlled steel printers.

The competition was set up by the pan-European network RobotUnion to encourage the development of innovative robotics. This is made up of six EU member states (The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, France, Spain and Poland) and Canada. Educational institutions such as the Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements in Warsaw, the Danish Technological Institute in Odense and TU Delft are all partners of RobotUnion, as are a number of large companies such as Ferrovial, the Spanish urban infrastructure company.

A total of 206 start-ups from 33 countries registered for the RobotUnion competition. Of these, 44 were allowed to give a presentation in July. A jury of experts selected 20 of these, each of whom received 4300 euros in cash for the further development of their business plan, among other things.

The second selection round will take place in October. The ten best robotics start-ups will receive 120,000 euros each to invest into the further development of their product. Then there will be a final round from which four winners will be chosen. They will receive another 100,000 euros. The prize money comes from the budget of the European Union’s innovation program, Horizon 2020.

Google and Yahoo

According to the marketing manager of one of the nominated companies, Casper van Eersel from IMSystems, just participating in the RobotUnion competition provides a wealth of contacts. “For example, you will meet many other starters and hear what they are up against, e.g. how to attract good employees, how to arrange funding.

Employees from large companies such as Google, Yahoo and other branches of industry will also be present during the presentations to scout for new technology, says Van Eersel. Who knows, this could result in customers or investors. “You notice that there is interest. Someone from the engineering office of one of these large companies can call later on just because he saw the presentation of our product at RobotUnion. They wouldn’t have done that otherwise, because they wouldn’t have seen us. The fact that we are among the last 20 makes them even more interested. They see that others also see something in our product. Then they’ll check it out a lot sooner. Such a competition puts our product in the spotlight much more than they usually are. That’s important.”

Asian robots on the rise

The fact that the development of robotics in Asia is on the rise makes RobotUnion’s European start-up network particularly relevant, Van Eersel says. “A stimulating environment strengthens the competitive position of European robotics companies,” Van Eersel continues. “The RobotUnion network acts as an accelerator”, says Van Eersel. “It facilitates the development of robotics start-ups at a European level that would not otherwise exist. We already have a very good infrastructure for this in the EU whereby member states cooperate with each other. There is a subsidy that the European Commission has made available for this purpose. We are making good use of it this way.”