UK marine robotics firm Vaarst secures US$20m in funding round

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Bristol-based cloud robotics company Vaarst has closed the first US$20m (£15.2m) of its Series B round, with the funding used to further develop its AI-based technology, underwater 3D SLAM based vision and the company’s expansion.

Vaarst is a provider of autonomy and cloud managed robotics; supporting the offshore wind, wave & tidal, scientific, maritime security, and civils industries. It aims to bring 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.  The group’s existing customers include energy firms Iberdrola and SSE, as well as ocean services provider DeepOcean.

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 (£7.6m) per month, which is both labour and cost intensive. Vaarst’s technology can help reduce the numbers of people at sea, while improving the data insights gained from offshore robots.

Brian Allen, CEO at Vaarst, said: “We’re delighted to have gained the support of some of the industry’s leading businesses and investors to help us execute on our vision – 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.

“When Vaarst was founded, we looked to bring the latest innovation to the marine survey sector to help drive efficiencies – making them quicker, safer, and more cost effective. As we’ve grown and developed, our technology has become increasingly advanced and its potential to transform other sectors has become ever clearer.”

This latest round was led by energy transition investor Legal & General Capital alongside the venture capital arm of the international energy company Equinor. Existing shareholder Foresight Group also participated alongside In-Q-Tel, Inc., the strategic investor for the US intelligence and defence communities and allied nations.

John Bromley, head of clean energy at Legal & General Capital, added: “Our clean energy platform continues to grow, entering new sectors and supporting the growth of innovative new technologies.  Rovco and Vaarst are exciting companies which 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.”

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