Bristol-based cloud robotics specialist Vaarst has raised $20 million funding. The Series B round was led by energy transition investor Legal & General Capital, and saw the participation of the venture capital arm of international energy company Equinor. Existing shareholder Foresight Group also participated alongside In-Q-Tel, Inc., the strategic investor for the U.S. intelligence and defence communities and allied nations.
The investment will allow the company to expand its work in the field of computer vision and data management, as well as support the group’s major globalisation plans, including expansion to Austin, Texas and Tokyo, Japan, as well as increasing its presence across Europe.
Formed in March 2021, the startup offers autonomous and cloud-managed robotics, supporting the offshore wind, wave and tidal, scientific, maritime security, and civil industries. It is bringing cutting-edge AI-based technology, underwater 3D SLAM-based vision, and level 4 autonomy to revolutionise how offshore industries manage marine infrastructure and improve asset integrity.
Sister company Rovco – which is also benefitting from the fundraise - delivers this technology into the energy transition space, mainly focused on its use for subsea surveys in offshore wind and oil field decommissioning.
Vaarst’s technology is designed to substantially lower the costs of marine operations and present seabed information simultaneously to any device in the world in real-time. At present, typical costs for a single service vessel working on a maritime asset can reach up to $10m per month, which is both labour and cost-intensive. The new technology can help reduce the numbers of people at sea, while improving the data insights gained from offshore robots.
Brian Allen, CEO, Vaarst, said: “We aim to change the way we conduct over-the-horizon robotic operations. In doing so, we will not only help the marine industries become safer and more profitable but will make the investment case for the energy transition more attractive, accelerating the journey to net-zero.”
John Bromley, head of clean energy, Legal & General Capital said: “Our clean energy platform continues to grow, entering new sectors and supporting the growth of innovative new technologies. Rovco and Vaarst are exciting companies that will help further support the global energy transition by supporting the long-term integrity of maritime assets, reducing costs, improving safety and speeding up processes. We are excited by their huge potential internationally and the synergies this could bring as we look to the international expansion of our investment in renewable infrastructure such as offshore wind”
The group’s existing customers include energy giants Iberdrola and SSE and ocean services provider, DeepOcean.