We are #readytopitch – and we are competing for the Newcomer Award at the Digital Hub Initiative’s Pitch Night on May 24 at Kraftwerk Mitte in Dresden. A top-class jury and the audience will decide which innovative ideas are the most convincing. Under the motto “Fest Forward,” the initiative will also celebrate its fifth birthday and present what it has achieved in the past five years in an exhibition. The evening will be opened by Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer and Dr. Anna Christmann, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Startups at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection. Register now and vote for us on May 24:
We are excited to announce that we are part of Intel Ignite Munich / Europe‘s startup growth program!
Intel Ignite is Intel Corporation‘s program for deep-tech #startups, helping turn cutting-edge ideas into industry-disrupting technologies by providing entrepreneurs hands-on mentorship, technical support, and business acumen.
We know this program will help us further our goal to create the next generation of robotics here at PowerON – Smart Elastic.
Let’s do this 🦾. Thanks Intel!
From 03.05. till 06.05 our CEO Markus Henke and COO Fabian Finster will be at the kick-off session in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany. During the week they will get to know other startups and take part in mentoring sessions and workshops. We look forward to meeting the rest of batch#3.
PowerON will be showcasing its technology and products at a technology fair in Dresden on May 10th, as part of the “Zukunftsland Sachsen” (Land of the Future Saxony) series. The event series is touring through Saxony, showcasing successful companies and their products. PowerON will be represented by our CEO, Dr. Markus Henke. Besides introducing PowerON and our technology, he will talk about the experiences faced by technology start-up founders. Together with other startups and already-well-known players in the robotics sector in Saxony, we will discuss questions, such as:
- What successful examples of robotics already exist in Saxony?
- How can I build up know-how and expertise in this field of technology in my company?
Business, production, medicine or agriculture – the current areas of application for robots are very diverse and widespread: and this is only the start. The high demand for automation solutions in general, and the use of industrial robots in particular, is largely due to recent technical progress. The development of new applications and supporting services is being pursued by science and innovative start-ups around Technical University Dresden. The settlement and establishment of various companies here in Robot Valley has increased significantly in recent years. We aim to give you an insight to the extent Saxony in particular, with its key players, will revolutionise this industry with innovative solutions. In the event “Robot Valley Saxony“, examples of success and challenges, and approaches to solving them, will be presented and discussed.
Are you interested? Then come and join us on 10 May 2022. During the event, you will have the opportunity to talk to the companies that presented, as well as other companies in your region, to exchange experiences and to ask questions.
Tickets for the event are available here: https://www.eventbrite.de/e/zuhause-in-der-zukunft-das-robot-valley-sachsen-tickets-249163523807
PowerON’s work and technology is attracting further attention in Germany. Our CEO Markus Henke has been interviewed by Thomas Trabert from the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. Thomas and Markus discussed PowerON, its history, journey, developments and vision. The article has been published in the framework of Success Stories at “Zukunftsland Sachsen”. You can find the article here (German original).
Below, you can read an English translation of the article:
Creating the next generation of robotics
The German-New Zealand startup PowerON is engaged in developing completely flexible electronic components for the next generation of robots. The team around co-founder Dr. E.-F. Markus Henke has nothing less in mind than to fundamentally revolutionize robotics as we know it from traditional industrial manufacturing.
“We want to make robots more human and teach them to feel.” To do this, PowerON is solving one of the fundamental problems of robotics. It is still difficult for robots to interact safely with their environment and, for example, to handle various randomly shaped objects. To change this, PowerON is looking at so-called multifunctional dielectric elastomers. These are flexible materials that can be used as artificial muscles to enable bioinspired movements, as artificial skins to provide robots with a sense of touch, and even as a kind of bioinspired nervous system that gives robots reflexes.
The evolution away from “Big, metal, cold and stiff colleagues in the factory,” as Dr. Henke calls them, to bionically designed assistance systems that interact with us every day in various applications is necessary, in PowerON’s view, to solve burning problems of the future, but which have already become apparent during the pandemic. “We have clearly seen in the last two years what happens to supply chains when entire companies have to close due to a pandemic,” says Dr. Henke, “Or how bad things are for the asparagus harvest when no helpers can be found. The dramatic situation in nursing is now obvious even to outsiders.” From PowerON’s point of view, there is a very great potential in the future to bring robotic assistance systems into use in many applications where it is not yet possible today. Flexible technology will offer a significant contribution to this. “It’s not now that we want to do away with industrial robots. They do their jobs in the production lines exceptionally well. But we want to make it possible for the significant advantages of automation technology to be available to the broad masses, precisely through bio-inspired systems that can work safely with us. “
And this is precisely what the compliance of materials in combination with electronics is supposed to make possible. To this end, the company has a broad patent portfolio in various areas, which is constantly being expanded. PowerON works primarily with tactile surfaces, which are used as fingertips in robot grippers and enable them to feel different surfaces and things. Currently, a demonstrator is being developed from the prototypes, together with an industrial partner, which will show the enormous potential of tactile gripping. “From the fingertips, we will subsequently create entire skins”, says. Dr. Henke. With these skins, PowerON wants to give complete robotic systems a tactile surface so that users can interact with them via buttons and gestures, similar to a hand on the shoulder. This feature is not only useful as a safety feature, as the robot can minimize consequences of possible collisions, but rather such skins will change the way we interact with technical systems in real-time and without further aids. Through location-resolved tactile sensing, they are enabling robots to recognize and respond to appropriate tactile gestures.
PowerON is also working on so-called “artificial muscles”. These are compliant materials that convert electrical energy into kinetic energy and have similar properties to biological muscles. This leads not only to a safer but also a more pleasant haptic experience than would be possible with classic actuators, such as motors. Furthermore, these actuators move silently, which is advantageous for use close to the body. Here, too, the first demonstrators have already been developed and built together with pilot customers.
“To the best of our knowledge, function integration at this depth, covering everything from sensor to actuator to signal processing with one material system, does not work with any other known technology.”
Dr. Ing. E.F. Markus Henke
CEO PowerON GmbH, CEO PowerON Ltd.
The greatest technological potential, however, still lies in the future, according to PowerON. “What we are most excited about is the possibility of being able to process signals through a clever combination of actuators and special sensors, which we call “artificial neurons,” and thus equip technical systems such as robots with reflexes and a certain autonomy” Dr. Henke elaborates. PowerON is developing autonomous, compliant signal processing units that can be directly integrated into flexible structures and provide them with some intelligence. “To the best of our knowledge, functional integration of this depth, which covers everything from the sensor to actuator to signal processing with one material system, does not work with any other known technology. “, says Dr. Henke.
Silicones with different degrees of hardness are used as the basis for all developments and are selected specifically for the respective type of application. In this way, customer-specific solutions can be created. To create the electronic components, the silicones are mixed with various carbon compounds and printed.
In addition to mechanical compliance, one advantage of the technology is that signals can be registered and processed directly where they occur, and a direct reflexive response can be elicited. Detection directly at the point of contact offers numerous advantages. For example, there is no need to integrate additional sensor technology in the motors and joints of robots, as is often the case today. The greatest potential, however, probably lies in opening up applications that no one is reckoning with today.
From science to application
After completing his Ph.D. at TU Dresden, Dr. Henke spent two years from 2015 to 2017 as a PostDoc at the Bioengineering Institute of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. There he worked on flexible artificial muscles, artificial neurons, and bioinspired robots. While there, he met the company’s current COO, Dr. Ross Martin Green, an already successful entrepreneur from New Zealand. Based on his experience in technology development, Dr. Green also recognized the commercial potential of the scientific work early on and was quickly convinced that further development would also be worthwhile. At the end of 2015, PowerON’s current CTO, Dr. Katie Wilson, came to New Zealand for her Ph.D. and complemented the team.
In 2017, Dr. Henke returned to Germany with the firm decision to set up a company in the field of soft robotics together with the team in New Zealand. In 2019, the time had come. With the support of investors from Australia and New Zealand, as well as the University of Auckland, PowerON Ltd. was founded. In addition, the founding team received support from Dresden|exist, and the TU Dresden in the form of an exist Business Startup Grant. This enabled the team to gain a foothold in Europe as well. In 2020, as a result of this support, PowerON GmbH was founded as a subsidiary in Dresden. Close cooperation with both universities continues and offers an excellent opportunity for mutual exchange.
Due to the geographical distance between Germany and New Zealand, PowerON is ideally positioned for a digital future. For example, weekly cross-company management meetings and supervisory board meetings have been held exclusively online since day 1. What other companies first had to implement and learn at the beginning of the Corona pandemic was already “best practice” for PowerON’s founding team.
A generally big challenge is always to bring visionary ideas to the broad market. This requires a comparatively large amount of money for a hardware startup like PowerON. This is invested primarily in specialists, laboratory equipment, and later in building up production capacities. Therefore, such disruptive, future-oriented developments are only possible with the support of external investors. “Just like us as founders, our investors believe in the technology and the impact our products will have in the near future. And perhaps more importantly, they believe in us as a team. “, says Dr. Henke.
This is also demonstrated by the fact that the investors, who incidentally have to date come exclusively from Australia and New Zealand, were prepared to invest in PowerON’s vision of next-generation bio-inspired robots at an early stage. In the upcoming financing round, German and European investors should now also be convinced of the potential.
For a young startup like PowerON, it is always fascinating, sometimes surprising, with what rules, procedures, and processes the German administrative apparatus comes up with. Therefore, it quickly became clear to PowerON that it was inevitable to establish a GmbH (limited liability company) based in Dresden in addition to the Ltd. that existed at the beginning in order to be able to exploit the full potential of opportunities in Germany and Europe. The PowerON team received significant support in this process from the network around Dresden|exist. It was also exciting to observe how quickly it can happen that a good idea can quickly reach the management level in large established companies and discuss its ideas with decision-makers there.
Currently, PowerON employs 15 people in Dresden and Auckland. By the end of next year, the company aims to double the size of its team.
As a young company, you should not underestimate the challenges that come with expanding your team. For example, the onboarding of new employees, especially in the beginning, ties up a lot of free resources that cannot be used in other areas of work.
The biggest challenge, especially at the beginning, was to transform the university background, with its focus on research, into product development with a focus on customer benefits. This transformation has been very successful, especially due to the cooperation with various pilot customers.
Robot Valley Saxony: How Saxony is becoming the leading robotics cluster
The leading German business newspaper “Handelsblatt” interviewed PowerON’s CEO Markus Henke for an article about Germany’s federal state of Saxony becoming the “Robot Valley Saxony”. The article covers Dresden and Saxony building a flourishing robotics ecosystem, combining universities, research institutions like Fraunhofer and Helmholtz Centers, major OEM companies like BOSCH, Global Foundries and Volkswagen, to create the perfect spot for startups to develop innovative solutions in robotics and test them directly in the the market. Simultaneously, major science and bioengineering orientated universities in Saxony deliver a stream of highly skilled graduates. “Dresden is on the way to becoming the “place to be” in robotics”, Markus says in the article. Read the entire story here.
PowerON has been intercontinental since day one, with teams in Dresden, Germany and Auckland, New Zealand. While this keeps us close to customers in Europe, the split brings several challenges. The time shift of 10-12 hours between Germany and New Zealand means extra planning is needed for the cross-team meetings that are vital for a young company exploiting ground-breaking technology. With the PowerON team growing rapidly just now, getting together is vital as we build links throughout the team.
Recently PowerON held its first “All Staff Forum”, where several new team members and interns were introduced and welcomed. “Even though it is not possible to physically meet just now, with Covid restrictions still in place, we need to do what we can for our team members to link up. PowerON’s success is based on ideas coming out of our multi-disciplinary team, which is why we can offer new solutions to support our customers”, Ross Green, COO, said after the meeting, “Our team gets a real lift from learning a little more about their colleagues, the available skill base and the full range of projects throughout our company. We will have such events at quarterly from now on.”
“After raising significant capital earlier this year, we have extended our team with numerous brilliant minds. It is important that our new people get to know the entire team, no matter where they are located” says Markus Henke, PowerON CEO. “Both of our branches have added engineering staff to support execution of our near- and longer-term technical plans. We are in process hiring a Chief Commercial Officer in Germany to shape and drive our medium-term business development”, added Dr. Henke.
Katie Wilson, CTO, noted: “We have an ambitious technical programme for delivery in 2022 to improve our product and service offers, supporting our current and prospective customers as they look to deploy our active elastomer components. The scale of opportunity for our customers is large, and PowerON is conscious of the need to support customers through the transition away from legacy electronic and electromechanical systems.” Dr. Wilson added: “Our strategic new hires have the right background and know how to develop smart elastic material applications meeting identified customer needs.”
Dr. Henke commented that PowerON expects to complete the current hiring round mid-2022. “We’re pleased with the response we received from candidates, especially given the competitive recruitment situation for good people in Europe and New Zealand now. We are running ahead of our recruitment goals, meaning that we will have the team ready with increased capacity for customer support next year.” He added that: “So far we have people of seven different nationalities. We are truly an international company and it is good to see the collaborative working across the team. This recruitment round has also seen us make good progress towards meeting our diversity goals. Diversity & inclusiveness are the top goals for companies, like PowerON, that build on new ideas.”
08 September 2021 – PowerON Limited is proud to announce the successful close of its $3.1M capital raise, supported by new and existing investors.
PowerON is turning the vision of soft robotics into reality, through the development and commercialisation of revolutionary soft electronics technology. Based on research originating from the Biomimetics Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, the PowerON team are deploying their dielectric elastomer technology towards sensing, signal processing, energy harvesting and actuation use cases in a variety of industrial applications. The company has two offices in Auckland, New Zealand and Dresden, Germany, the European centre of robotics development.
The $3 million raise was oversubscribed through strong support from the New Zealand investment community. Booster Investment Management, New Zealand Growth Capital Partners Aspire NZ Seed Fund, Quidnet Ventures, K1W1, Greenlight Ventures NZ, Pacific Channel, and Angel Investors Marlborough join the existing investors IP Group, Matū Fund, and the University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund. The investors look forward to working together to help guide the company through the next stage of its journey.
The capital raised will enable the company to build the market for TouchDetect (a soft fingertip giving robots sense of touch), and complete multifunctional prototypes for lead customers. As PowerON grows, its product offering will expand from components towards lifelike soft robotic devices and collaborative robots, using PowerON artificial muscles instead of motors and gears.
PowerON CEO, Markus Henke, said “PowerON’s technology will revolutionise the way society uses robots – shifting from hard machinery in cages to friendly, lifelike companions that work alongside us day-to-day. These changes will have an impact like the invention of semiconductors in the 1950s that led to the IT revolution.
To make this vision a reality, we are expanding to fulfill strong customer interest we’ve seen since launching in 2019. We are building on internationally-patented research conducted in New Zealand over the past 10 years.
The support shown by the venture finance community in this oversubscribed capital raise is a strong vote of confidence in our team and vision. I also acknowledge government R&D support in New Zealand and Germany, especially over the past two difficult years as we navigate Covid. We now have a clear runway to move our technology out into the market – and to change the world with the next generation of robotics.”
Matū Managing Partner, Greg Sitters, adds: “We are excited to support the PowerON team and their disruptive technology that will help realise the vision of soft robotics. It is great that PowerON had so much support in the New Zealand investment market, and we are seeing a real shift away from deep tech companies needing to raise seed and Series A rounds from overseas investors.”
For more information, visit www.poweron.one or contact:
|Markus Henke (PowerON Germany)|
T: +49 1733021095
|Katie Wilson (PowerON New Zealand)|
T: +64 273956607
| Andrew Chen|
T: +64 21 210 1531
About Matū Fund
Matū is a venture capital fund investing in early-stage science and technology commercialisation from education and research institutions and the private sector. As an open and evergreen fund, Matū takes a long-term investment view and is aimed at turning ground-breaking ideas into globally focused, IP-rich companies. Matū provides intelligent capital with active governance, executive management, operational support, and mentorship for founding and executive teams: www.matu.co.nz
About IP Group plc
IP Group is a leading intellectual property commercialisation company focused on evolving great ideas from its partner universities into world-changing businesses. The Group pioneered a unique approach to developing these ideas and the resulting businesses by providing access to business building expertise, capital, scientific insight and the supporting infrastructure. In Australia and New Zealand, IP Group works in close partnership with the Go8 Universities and The University of Auckland to identify ground-breaking technologies, rooted in hard science, which have the most promising commercial potential. IP Group, which is listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange under the symbol IPO, has a strong track record of success and its portfolio comprises holdings in early-stage to mature businesses across life sciences and technology: www.ipgroupplc.com
About The University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund
The University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund is an evergreen, open-ended $20 million investment fund owned and managed by UniServices, the commercialisation and research impact company wholly owned by the University of Auckland. The fund provides pre-seed and seed capital for University of Auckland spin-outs: www.uniservices.co.nz
Booster is one of the six government-appointed default KiwiSaver scheme providers with almost $4.5 billion currently under management on behalf of over 130,000 investors across KiwiSaver, Superannuation and Investment Schemes. Booster helps Kiwis share in the success of innovative research and IP development by investing in early-stage technologies across the innovation ecosystem and through their direct investment funds, one of which is focused on supporting NZ businesses founded on technologies emerging from New Zealand universities: www.booster.co.nz
About New Zealand Growth Capital Partners
NZGCP was established by the Government in 2002 to build a vibrant early-stage investment market in New Zealand. It currently has two investment vehicles – the Aspire NZ Seed Fund (Aspire) which is focused on seed and angel investment and Elevate NZ Venture Fund (Elevate) – a $300m fund of funds programme which looks to fill the capital gap for high-growth New Zealand businesses at the Series A and B fund raising stage. The PowerOn investment was made by the Aspire Fund and led by Maria-Jose Alvarez: www.nzgcp.co.nz
About Quidnet Ventures
Quidnet Ventures is an early stage fund investing in New Zealand-based founders building impactful companies. Quidnet Ventures focuses on taking New Zealand innovation to the world and takes an active role in helping its portfolio companies succeed by leveraging its team’s global, multi-sector network as its portfolio companies position themselves to enter international markets. Quidnet Ventures provides unrivaled access to a global network across academia, government affairs, venture capital and industry: www.quidnetventures.com
About Greenlight Ventures
Greenlight Ventures NZ invests in and backs a wide range of early stage ventures with global reach including deep-tech, clean-tech, med-tech, fintech and ventures which democratise access. It is an early stage investment vehicle of New Zealander, Jennifer Sutton: www.greenlightventures.co.nz
About Pacific Channel
Pacific Channel supports ground-breaking NZ-based deep-tech companies that create meaningful global impact and value. We invest in these companies across multiple stages of their growth and support them with our expertise and networks. Pacific Channel has recently closed a $55m venture fund, aiming to invest in 25 New Zealand-based deep-tech companies: pacificchannel.com
About Angel Investors Marlborough
Angel Investors Marlborough is a membership-based investment network of wholesale investors and allied business professionals. Our objective is to connect experienced early-stage investors with entrepreneurs and innovators.Since establishing in 2017 Angel Investors Marlborough has quickly grown to be one of the largest and most active regional Angel clubs in New Zealand.
Angel Investors Marlborough is a member of the Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ), a network of more than twenty angel groups and funds throughout the country. We collectively promote and facilitate investor education by providing education events, active learning opportunities on actual deals and best practice procedures.
We’re pleased to share with you a great video put together by Auckland Unlimited, the business support people in our original home of Auckland, New Zealand.
The video introduces the work our team here at PowerON does every day to shape soft, biomimetic solutions for the next generation of robotics. Listen to CTO Katie Wilson introducing our vision. Katie also explains the importance and availability of support here in Auckland for disruptive new businesses like us.
“For tech start-ups, a lot of us are engineers – we don’t necessarily have that business background, so you definitely want to grab as much of the support that’s available and Auckland Unlimited can point you the right way.” Katherine Elizabeth Wilson
Our CEO, E.-F. Markus Henke, will be speaking at the 15th Silicon Saxony Day – about how our Smart Elastic Technology transforms robotics as we know them. Join us and register now!
The virtual conference on May 27 will feature top-notch keynotes, eight expert sessions and various networking possibilities. Topics range from IoT, DigitalTwins, AI, Robotics and ICDesign, RFID and TrustedElectronics to Materials and Technologies.
Learn more about the newest technology trends, exchange with peers during the whole day via the conference tool and find new business partners in Saxony and beyond!
Silicon Saxony is an industry association of nearly 300 companies in the microelectronics and related sectors in Saxony, Germany, with around 40,000 employees.
Hannover Messe Digital Edition, the world’s leading trade fair for industry, is entirely online this year. PowerON is part of the futureSAX Start-up Corner, along with other innovative companies from the German Federal State of Saxony.
“We will showcase our recent progress, focussing on products available for sampling now and coming up later this year”, Katie Wilson, PowerON CTO said, “Hannover Messe is the best event to engage with customers for engineered devices, so we were pleased to get this early opportunity. We expect to learn a lot about new applications and use cases for PowerON products”, she concludes.
“With the Messe going online this year, I believe that has upside for customers and PowerON. Nobody likes queuing at crowded stands; this year’s Digital Edition lets you see booths you like, whenever you want. We have products being readied for launch, and a lot of enquiries, so the Hannover Digital Edition also makes efficient use of PowerON team’s time” Markus Henke, PowerON CEO says.
The online fair will take place from 12 to 16 April 2021, daily from 6:00am to 8:00pm CET. Access as well as an overview of the supporting programme is available to interested parties and trade fair visitors on the Hannover Messe website.