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 disruptive 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.

Steve Harris

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.

Harris said: “Data scientists and machine learning engineers can spend up to 80% of their time sourcing, cleaning and organising 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 the AI industry, which will underpin many areas of our day to day life.

“This investment round, led by NPIF and Mercia, will allow 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 “It’s 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 added: “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.”

Over the coming months will be highlighting the disruptive businesses from across the North which are working hard to be at the forefront of the technology that will shape the lives we have in the future, as it builds towards it’s virtual Disruptors North event on 20 October.

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