Rethink Robotics Adds $18M to Funding Pot Amid Automation Debate

One of New England’s leading robotics companies has raised new money for the new year. Boston-based Rethink Robotics says it has closed $18 million as part of a Series E funding round. A regulatory filing from this week shows the equity round could grow to $33 million.

Private equity firm Adveq participated in the latest round, along with Rethink’s previous investors, which include Bezos Expeditions, CRV, Highland Capital Partners, and GE Ventures. Rethink Robotics has raised more than $130 million since its founding in 2008, making it one of the more heavily funded private tech companies in Boston.

Rethink is led by founder and CTO Rodney Brooks (pictured) and CEO Scott Eckert. The company says its robots—named Baxter and Sawyer—are being used by manufacturers such as DECO Lighting, DHL, and Wasion Group. The robots have dexterity, vision, and learning abilities good enough to help them collaborate with factory workers in tasks like assembly and testing. One of the company’s adoption challenges, though, has been making customers comfortable with integrating new types of robots into their production lines and processes.

That plays into a bigger discussion about the future of human jobs in the age of automation. Perhaps Rethink Robotics could help advance our society’s thinking on how humans and machines can work together more effectively—and what new roles people could take on. Now, that would be well worth a few million dollars.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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