Training platform for robots eyes global expansion after £2.3m fundraise
A start-up with a platform that trains robots to recognise images has completed a £2.3m funding round to help it build its team in Yorkshire and expand sales of its product worldwide.
The investment in Sheffield-based Mindtech Global was led by NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), with Deeptech Labs and In-Q-Tel participating.
Mindtech’s Chameleon platform reduces the time and cost involved in bringing artificial intelligence (AI) systems to market by changing the way visual AI systems are trained. Visual AI systems can have wide-ranging uses in areas such as retail, smart cities, homes and healthcare – for example, spotting if a child has slipped their parent’s hand in a busy supermarket, if someone is behaving unusually on a train platform or if a resident in a care home has fallen over and needs help.
Currently, training these systems requires the processing of thousands of real-life images which is not only expensive and time-consuming, but – where photos of people are involved – can also create problems with privacy and bias.
Launched in 2019, Mindtech’s platform enables developers to generate a sequence of synthetic images and create scenarios that show the algorithm what to look out for. The use of synthetic images alongside a small percentage of genuine photos has been shown to produce the best AI results.
Mindtech was founded by Steve Harris, the CEO, who had previously held senior roles in leading tech companies. The company, which currently employs 20 staff, has recently opened an engineering base in Sheffield, attracted by the wealth of skills from the region’s growing game development sector.
Chameleon is already used by a number of large corporates in the security, retail and ‘smart home’ sectors. The funding will enable Mindtech to further enhance the technology, build its team in Yorkshire and accelerate uptake of the platform worldwide.
Steve Harris, CEO of Mindtech, said:
“Data scientists and machine learning engineers can spend up to 80 per cent of their time sourcing, cleaning and organizing training data. Our Chameleon platform solves this challenge. This round will enable us to open up our platform to even more customers in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific, enabling them to build AI vision solutions that better understand the way humans interact with each other and the world around them.”
Will Clark of Mercia said:
“Mindtech’s game-changing technology has the potential to transform theAI industry, which will underpin many areas of our day to day life. This investment round, led by NPIF and Mercia, willallow it to build its team and its client base to take the business to the next level.”
Grant Peggie, Director, The British Business Bank said
“Its impressive to see a transformational business like Mindtech Global based in Sheffield attracting investment from significant investors like Deeptech Labs and In-Q-Tel. The NPIF investment from Mercia has unlocked considerable international growth opportunities for the business.
Miles Kirby, CEO, Deeptech Labs said:
“At DTL, we look for ambitious teams, with novel deeptech solutions and the appetite to build world-beating companies. Mindtech’s world-class team of engineers and domain experts are on a mission to disrupt the way AI systems are trained, opening the door to exponential growth in the industry. It’s a tremendous opportunity and we’re delighted to be supporting Mindtech’s journey from this early stage.”
Nat Puffer, Managing Director (London), In-Q-Tel said:
“Mindtech impressed us with the maturity of their Chameleon platform and their significant commercial traction with global customers. We’re excited by the many applications this platform has across diverse markets and its ability to remove what is at present a significant roadblock in the development of smarter, more intuitive AI systems.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
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About Mindtech Global
Mindtech Global is the developer of the world’s first end-to-end ‘synthetic’ data creation platform for the training of visual AI systems. The company’s Chameleon platform is a step change in the way AI-based vision systems are trained, specifically helping computers understand and predict human interactions in applications ranging across retail, the built environment, smart home, transportation systems, healthcare and robotics.
About Mercia Asset Management PLC
Mercia is a proactive, specialist asset manager focused on supporting regional SMEs to achieve their growth aspirations. Mercia provides capital across its four asset classes of balance sheet, venture, private equity and debt capital: the Group’s ‘Complete Capital Solution’. The Group initially nurtures businesses via its third-party funds under management, then over time Mercia can provide further funding to the most promising companies, by deploying direct investment follow-on capital from its own balance sheet.
Mercia has a strong UK regional footprint through its eight offices, 19 university partnerships and extensive personal networks, providing it with access to high-quality deal flow. Mercia currently has c.£872million of assets under management and, since its IPO in December 2014, has invested over c.£106million across its direct investment portfolio.
The Group raises its own Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) Funds and manages Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) details about open offers can be found through Mercia’s website.
Mercia Asset Management PLC is quoted on AIM with the epic “MERC” and includes the following wholly owned subsidiaries –
- Mercia Fund Management Limited is authorised and regulated by the FCA under firm reference number 524856
- Enterprise Ventures Limited is authorised and regulated by the FCA under firm reference number 183363
- EV Business Loans Limited is authorised and regulated by the FCA under firm reference number 443560
About The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund
- The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will invest in Microfinance, Business Loans and Equity Finance sub-funds which will offer financing ranging from £25,000 to £2m, specifically to help small and medium sized businesses secure the funding they need for growth and development.
- The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is operated by British Business Financial Services Limited, wholly owned by British Business Bank, the UK’s national economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to make finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, enabling those businesses to prosper, grow and build UK economic activity.
- The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and British Business Finance Limited, a British Business Bank group company.
- The NPIF covers the following LEP areas: Tees Valley Combined Authority, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Liverpool City Region, Lancashire, Hull and East Yorkshire, Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region, and York & North Yorkshire
- The project is receiving up to £140,359,192 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.
- The funds in which Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund invests are open to businesses with material operations, or planning to open material operations, in, Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West and Tees Valley.
- The British Business Bank has published the Business Finance Guide (in partnership with the ICAEW, and a further 21 business and finance organisations). The guide, which impartially sets out the range finance options available to businesses and provides links to support available at a regional level, is available at www.thebusinessfinanceguide.co.uk/bbb