Home » Seed fund boost to expand start-up’s robotic micro-factories

Seed fund boost to expand start-up’s robotic micro-factories

by Mark Cantrell
A construction tech start-up that intends to build affordable homes in decentralised robotic 'micro-factories' has raised £2.6m seed funding to support its growth ambitions.

A construction tech start-up that intends to build affordable homes in decentralised robotic ‘micro-factories’ has raised £2.6m seed funding to support its growth ambitions.

Automated Architecture (AUAR) eschews automation in large, centralised factories. Instead, the company says it offers a different vision; one that “empowers local eco-systems of communities, contractors, architects, and developers to build better homes”.

The company was founded in 2019 by chief executive Mollie Claypool, and CTO and chief architect, Gilles Retsin, after they had worked together for over a decade researching how robotics, generative design, and AI could “radically transform” housing and how we live.

AUAR is targeting 40 license partners for its micro-factories by 2030, with a claimed capacity to produce over 75,000 energy-efficient homes, and remove millions of tonnes of CO2 each year.

Claypool said: “There is a huge and urgent need for affordable low-energy homes, but currently, these are expensive to build and difficult to deliver at scale.

“Building high-quality, sustainable timber homes is hard to scale, but AUAR is here to change that. Robots and AI allow us to deliver high-quality housing at significantly lower costs, increasing margins and productivity while lowering the cost for the end users.

“By using our solution, construction companies are incentivised to meet much-needed sustainability targets.”

The company is partnering with home builders and contractors in Europe and North America to build the first distributed micro-factory network for sustainable timber housing.

AUAR licenses its low CapEx robotic micro-factories and tech stack to a network of existing home builders, creating what it claims is a massive revenue opportunity for these companies to deliver low-energy homes at the price of normal homes and at scale. According to the company, its design algorithms can generate endless design variations adapted to local sites.

Funding boost

The £2.6m funding round was led by deep-tech and AI fund, Miles Ahead, alongside Robotics & Automation Ventures (ABB RAV), which is the venture capital arm of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation.

Other investors in the round also included: Rival Holdings, Morgan Stanley, Vandenbussche Group, Bacchus Venture Capital, and angel investors Nicolas Bearelle, Atomico Scout Stefano Bernardi and Dob Todorov.

The investment will support the company’s growth of its partner license network with 10 more partners, and expanding operations in the US.

Co-founder and CTO, Gilles Retsin, said, “AUAR has developed all the tech home builders need to develop, produce, and build affordable low-energy homes while increasing margins and productivity. Our technology is low CapEx, doesn’t require big factories, and pays itself back in a few months.”

The construction industry is one of the world’s largest sectors, with $10 trillion annually spent on construction-related goods and services. However, according to a McKinsey report, the sector has an intractable productivity problem, costing the global economy $1.6 trillion annually.

Existing solutions, such as modular factories, are CapEx-heavy, struggle to deliver and take years to set up. AUAR, by contrast, is said to provide a solution to this issue where its tech stack of robotic micro-factories and software reduces upfront investment costs for builders. As a result, it increases their productivity while de-risking projects, and helping with labour shortages.

Luc Burgelman, founding partner at Miles Ahead, said, “AUAR’s combination of licensed hardware and software has the potential to change the game as we know it. Its construction approach will not only be a massive help in fighting the low levels of productivity observed in the sector, saving companies valuable time, moreover, it will be instrumental in meeting sustainability goals.”

Data model

AUAR says its underlying data model makes all costs and other data known upfront to its clients and manufacturing partners. The company is already working with two pilot customers – Rival Holdings, and Vandenbussche NV.

Brad Crawford, chief executive at Rival Holdings, said: “We’re delighted to collaborate with AUAR both as an investor and a customer. The ability to efficiently incorporate their solution into our business makes this partnership dynamic and strategic, and we can’t wait to see what this funding round will enable their team to accomplish.”

Craig McDonnell, managing director, business line industries at ABB Robotics, added: “By re-imagining how robotic automation can be used as part of the construction process, AuAr’s approach has the potential to completely transform the house building sector.

“By making full use of the extended possibilities offered by robots, AUAR’s concept will enable sustainable homes to be built faster, more cost-effectively and with greatly reduced waste while ensuring the highest levels of quality and consistency.”

Main image: CTO and chief architect, Gilles Retsin and chief executive Mollie Claypool, co-founders of Automated Architecture

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