Europe is often seen as a place where basic research drives innovation in countries and industries – an approach that takes a long time to result in category leaders, breakthrough products and sky-high transaction amounts. At least that’s what we often tell ourselves when we examine comparisons of global finance statistics.
Either way, deeptech is undoubtedly a growing industry on this side of the Atlantic. According to data presented by Atomico, deeptech companies have raised nearly $ 20 billion in the first nine months of 2021. Our own figure would be slightly less than around € 12 billion, which is likely due to a difference. in the definition of deeptech. (In fact, there doesn’t seem to be agreement even whether it’s two words or one.)
In this overview, deeptech companies are defined as those that use extensive (scientific) research to bring innovative products to market. This does not mean that these companies have to be the first to offer their product, but the niche must be narrow enough and made up mainly of other deeptech players.
One notable category that we do not examine in this article is pure biotech companies, which are in a category of their own in many ways, including funding amounts.
Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the wonderful world of science, research and the fascinating things in Europe that have attracted the most money from investors in 2021.
10. $ 125 million for digital therapeutics
Swiss digital neurotherapy platform MindMaze raised $ 125 million in October from AlbaCore Capital Group, whose startup was valued at more than $ 1.5 billion. In addition to its products, the company is also known for the fact that its list of funders includes Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
MindMaze uses its expertise in neurology to design games that use virtual and augmented reality to help patients restore motor function after stroke or brain trauma. In games, which people can play at home or in the hospital, include tasks that involve moving the arms, legs, or trunk in a certain way. The movement, monitored by a camera, is amplified in the game – and triggers a reward.
9. 165 million dollars for a DNA printer
French biotech startup DNA Script secured $ 165 million in funding in October, a few months after launching its benchtop DNA printer for use in CRISPR gene editing applications. Series C was led by Coatue and Catalio Capital Management and brought the total amount raised by DNA Script to $ 280 million.
The printer in question, called the SYNTAX platform, is a device that “sets up in 15 minutes and within hours produces up to 96 oligos immediately ready for use in genomics and molecular biology research.” The company’s technology promises to transform research processes in several industries where synthetic biology is involved by offering to print longer DNA sequences than ever before and deliver them within hours.
8. $ 180 million for an AI-powered research platform
French AI startup Owkin officially became a unicorn in November, when it signed a deal with biopharmaceutical giant Sanofi. In addition to $ 180 million in equity, Owkin will receive $ 90 million under a “Discovery and Development Partnership” over the next three years. The agreement also provides for additional payments which depend on the completion of certain stages of the research process.
While not a basic research company per se, Owkin fits the mold of deep tech as it applies AI to medical and biotechnology research across the globe. Its platform connects data scientists, clinicians, academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies to create global datasets, while protecting patient data within a hospital’s local infrastructure. Its offering is made up of four parts: Owkin Loop (the network), Owkin Connect (the technological infrastructure), Owkin Studio (the AI software tool) and Owkin Lab (the expertise).
7.205 million dollars for electric air taxis
Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace raised $ 205 million in November to support work on an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The money, which comes from the American company Mudrick Capital and Kouros, headquartered in Paris, is to be used for the certification and production of Vertical Aerospace’s first vehicle.
The VX4 aircraft, which can accommodate four passengers and a pilot, is expected to be certified around 2024. According to specifications, it can fly up to 321 km / h and has a range of over 160 km. The manufacturer also claims that the VX4 will be “near-silent” in flight. Vertical Aerospace already has 1,350 pre-orders for the VX4, while airports in London, Tokyo and Sao Paolo are interested in testing the plane as a flying taxi.
6.15 million pounds to fight COVID-19
UK-based DNA sequencing biotech firm Oxford Nanopore secured £ 195million in May in a surprise funding round ahead of the September IPO. The public listing, in which the company raised £ 524million, valued the Oxford-based company at almost £ 5 billion.
The company, which has developed next-generation devices for DNA and RNA sequencing, is actively working in the fight against COVID-19. He had focused on tracking coronavirus mutations through proprietary genome sequencing technology and providing rapid tests for the NHS.
5.220 million dollars for agile robots
German hardware and software startup Agile Robots raised $ 220 million in September in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The funding deal valued Agile Robots at more than $ 1 billion. The company, which is headquartered in Munich and Beijing, humbly calls its products “the future of robotics” because its five-finger robots can be deployed in a wide range of environments, from assembly lines to ‘household appliances in health establishments.
Agile Robots emphasizes four pillars of its robotic technology: the perception of force, which means that its robots can literally sense the physical world; advanced vision technology based on deep learning; autonomous planning that allows robots to develop and adjust travel paths in real time; and intelligence algorithms, with which robots can quickly adapt to new environments.
4.200 million euros for more eVTOL vehicles
German urban air mobility (UAM) startup Volocopter secured € 200 million in funding in March to support the certification and production of its eVTOL air taxi vehicle, VoloCity. Unlike the plane developed by Vertical Aerospace, which looks like a conventional plane, the German plane looks more like a quadrocopter on steroids, with a helicopter cabin secured under an 18-rotor chassis.
VoloCity can carry a passenger and a pilot up to 35 km at 100 km / h. In the future, Volocopter envisions autonomous operating vehicles with two passengers on board. The aircraft has removable batteries that can be swapped out in less than five minutes, which should dramatically reduce turnaround times and allow near continuous service.
Rome Fiumicino Airport is likely to become the first place where VoloCity will become operational. The plan is to connect the airport to several places in the Italian capital within “two or three years”.
3.300 million dollars for satellite Internet access
London-based satellite communications firm OneWeb has attracted $ 300 million investment from South Korean defense electronics and information infrastructure firm Hanwha Systems, at a valuation of more than $ 3 billion .
OneWeb experienced a year-long roller coaster in 2020, when it was saved from bankruptcy by the UK government and Bharti Global, who together invested $ 1 billion in the company. These days, however, it seems alive and well with 394 of the 648 satellites planned to orbit our planet.
When the entire constellation of satellites is launched – which is expected to happen next year – OneWeb should be able to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet access to customers around the world. The list of potential customers includes “telecommunications providers, air and sea markets, ISPs and governments around the world.”
2.600 million dollars for surgical robots
UK-based robotics company CMR Surgical landed $ 600 million in a Series D funding round in June. The round, which valued the company at $ 3 billion, was co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Ally Bridge Group.
CMR Surgical’s main product is a robotic keyhole surgery system called Versius. It is optimized to make the operation minimally invasive and focuses on conditions such as bowel disease or bowel cancer. At the time of the announcement, RMC mentioned that Versius had already been involved in 1,000 surgeries. It has been used in four NHS hospitals in the UK, as well as in Italy, India, the United Arab Emirates and Australia, among others.
1.275 billion dollars for sustainable batteries
The biggest deeptech funding round of the year – which also happens to be the biggest, period – was raised in June by Swedish battery developer Northvolt. The company, whose mission is to produce durable lithium batteries, will use the silver to increase its annual production capacity in Europe to 150 GWh by 2030. The funding was co-led by existing investors Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen, as well as the new ones, the Swedish pension funds AP1-4 and the Canadian OMERS.
Volkswagen has contributed 500 million euros to this funding round to retain its 20% stake in the battery maker. The German auto giant also placed a $ 14 billion battery order with Northvolt in March; another player in the region, BMW ordered $ 2.3 billion worth of batteries last year. In addition to these, Northvolt works with Swedish truck maker Scania and energy storage company Fluence (a joint venture of Siemens and AES).
Earlier this week, Northvolt announced that its Swedish production plant had delivered the first lithium-ion battery cell. The company claims it is the first such cell to be completely designed, developed and assembled in a gigafactory by a European company. He also mentioned that commercial deliveries will start in 2022.
These are some of the biggest deeptech deals we’ve seen over the year. The European industry of innovative and R&D-intensive companies and products has again proven to be diverse and quite resilient in the face of the pandemic. Stay tuned for more focused coverage in the New Year; in the meantime, check out our series of end-of-year thoughts here.