Behind the deal: Our investment in Forcen

Posted by Brightspark on May 21, 2024

Imagine these scenarios: A box is carelessly crushed as someone attempts to lift it, destroying its contents. In a surgery room, a delicate human organ is accidentally pierced during manipulation. A freshly caught fish slips from the hands of a fisherman and falls to the floor.

This is a world without tactile sensation, and it is how the vast majority of robots operate today. Forcen is changing this landscape forever by giving robots the sense of touch through scalable, super-human force-torque sensors, and we are proud to announce our lead investment in their $8.35M Financing.


  • Founded: 2015

  • HQ: Toronto, ON

  • Funding: April 2024 | $8.35M Financing

  • Investors: The Brightspark Canadian Opportunities Fund II, accredited investors via a Brightspark SPV, BDC Capital Deep Tech Venture Fund, Garage Capital, MaRS IAF, EmergingVC, and strategic angels

The Story So Far

Machine vision is excellent today. A whole generation of innovation has led to our intelligent machines being able to identify and extract crucial operating information from sight alone. In addition, machine dexterity has become highly advanced - Robots can pick things up, they can move around, they can hold things and they can even aid in surgery with amazing dexterity. However, the lack of real-time force feedback means the bulk of our robots are operating well under their full capability, oftentimes being artificially limited to ensure the safety of human co-workers and to satisfy operational reliability.

Dr. Robert Brooks set out to fix this problem in 2015. After completing his Ph. D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto, Robert spent time at the SickKids Hospital where he saw how even the most advanced surgical robots, responsible for manipulating delicate human organs at the highest stakes, lacked real time force feedback. Surgeons were learning to operate off of visual cues alone, so Robert saw an opportunity in the market and founded Forcen to introduce his force sensing technologies to the surgical robotics world.

Over the coming years of R&D, it became apparent that “robotic touch” was heavily sought after by far more industries than just surgical, so Forcen took the pivot to build force sensors and edge AI that served robots across industrial, logistical, and frontier applications. With only $4M raised, Robert led Forcen to develop a suite of proprietary sensor hardware and edge AI software technologies, build out a full made-to-measure production line in Canada, and saw their sensors implemented in multiple Tier 1 OEMs and robotic users across their core industries.

Our Thesis

Robotics is taking over the world. Since 2009, industrial robotics alone saw a 50x increase in the number of units deployed globally. During that same time frame, leading machine vision incumbents such as Cognex and Keyence saw over an order of magnitude of growth in their revenue and Enterprise Value by fulfilling the rapid demand of machine vision for robotic applicators across all industries. The growth in robotics is not slowing down anytime soon, and in fact is compounding by factors such as labor shortages, cost-effective automation, increased productivity demands, and quality improvements.

We believe Forcen is poised to unlock tremendous value in this market by enabling next-generation, superhuman force intelligence for robots. Be it from the $13B surgical robotics market tackling new categories of surgery that require haptic feedback, or from the $60B logistical & industrial robotics market looking to optimize warehouse operations, or from the vast amount of frontier markets building novel humanoid, space, and energy applications - there is a growing demand for Forcen’s reliable, resilient, and intuitive force sensing solutions.

Our team first met Robert in March of 2023. As we got to know both him and the company better, we recognized the world-class team of homegrown talent that he has built for the company, the engineering-first principles that drive their design and production operations, and the ambitious, long-term market view that the company is building towards. Beyond their novel technologies, the company has streamlined their production to deliver made-to-measure sensing systems within 4 weeks of first contact - something no other sensor incumbent can claim - all while being smaller, lighter, and 10x more resilient than any other force-torque sensor in the market.

Altogether, we saw what was clearly a Brightspark investment opportunity: a deeply domain experienced founder building next-generation technologies to disrupt a critical, large, and growing market.

The Investment

We are pleased to have led this $8.35M Financing alongside BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund, who bring in valuable expertise in the robotics industry. We are joined by Garage Capital and the MaRS IAF as new investors, and welcomed EmergingVC as a returning investor to Forcen. Mark Skapinker will be joining the Board of Directors of the company, and looks forward to working closely with Robert over the coming years to realize this next evolution in robotic capabilities.

Together, we will be working to bring forth Forcen’s next chapter of growth, as they scale across their core industries and find new exciting applications within numerous frontier markets. If you find yourself eager to take part in this journey, do not hesitate to reach out to us and Forcen here.

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