More and more institutions and companies are discovering the benefits of using robotics in their daily work. However, not all of them also have the expertise and manpower internally to use them in a target-oriented way. For this case, Elisa Czerski founded N Robotics: The company aims to build an ecosystem around mobile robotics to offer customers and partners full flexibility and the ability to develop their own applications. We talked to Elisa Czerski about the idea and development behind the company.
Dear Ms. Czerski, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview! You have a degree in philosophy. Is there any philosophical wisdom that has accompanied you through your career so far?
I started studying philosophy back then to find answers. However, I quickly learned during my studies that there are no right or wrong answers in philosophy, only theses that are either better or worse justified. So, philosophy taught me to question things more, to argue logically, and thus to make better, more informed decisions. Often, especially as a founder, you face exactly the challenge of having to make decisions quickly without being able to foresee exactly what is right and what is wrong. At the same time, you have a great responsibility towards your employees and customers, and you constantly try to live up to this responsibility. This philosophical approach often helps me at this point.
N Robotics was founded in 2021 as a full-stack robotics company. What exactly is your company model?
Our goal is to create an entire ecosystem around mobile robotics that gives our customers and partners full flexibility and the ability to develop their own applications. Current systems on the market either offer only stationary robotics solutions, such as robot arms, or come from research and are not designed for a broad industrial application.
The focus of all our developments, however, is always the customer and the desire to make our technology as widely available as possible, which is why we also rely on a completely in-house production. This makes us independent of suppliers and allows us to adapt all products to the respective application in terms of performance and price. Most of our customers use our robots for mobile collection of various data, which can be autonomously recorded with the help of our built-in sensor technology and then analyzed with the help of AI.
The focus of your work is the guiding principle of enabling everyone to participate in the digital transformation. Why is this premise particularly important to you?
I grew up in a highly digitized world and was able to witness the enormous technical advances of the last few decades, which gave me an early desire to play an active and positive role in shaping this technical development.
Often, technical progress happens top-down, which means that it is usually reserved for a small group of people and companies at the beginning. However, we think that technologies such as AI and robotics will so significantly determine our everyday lives in the future that they should not only emerge from our society, but also because of it and be used for it. This is the only way to create products that have the long-term potential to improve our lives and actively help people. That's why with N Robotics we are pursuing the goal of building precisely such a company, which, in addition to diversity, responsibility and progress, also focuses strongly on accessibility.
Among other things, you offer your solutions to academic institutions. How can you imagine such a solution? Can you give us one or two examples?
Many of our products are particularly interesting for research institutions and universities because of the openness of our hardware and software and the degree of compatibility with other existing systems. In particular, our robots are often used for research and development of different applications.
The cooperation with universities allows us to work on projects that are not exclusively focused on current market needs, but pursue a long-term research interest. Often, such projects result in longer-lasting closer partnerships and collaborations, in which we can actively exchange resources and knowledge and thus jointly make a substantial contribution to the development of new technologies.
How does such a collaboration proceed?
At the beginning of every robotics solution, there is initially a wish for automation or a certain research interest. Since mobile robotics is still a very young market with a manageable number of market participants, many customers initially use the available solutions on the market and are then quickly confronted with certain limitations of these systems. These limitations are mainly found in the adaptability, openness of the hardware and software, performance, efficiency as well as price point and delivery capacities. We then first try to understand the exact wishes and requirements of the customer and develop a joint MVP (Minimum Viable Product), which is either based on one of our existing products or which we develop specifically for the customer and produce at our company.
You founded your company in 2021. What was your path up to the foundation? Has robotics been your desired field of application for a long time?
In fact, robotics has been my dream field since my youth, because it uniquely combines physics, electronics, mechanics, software and design with ethical and social issues. But for a long time, it remained just a dream, until I started my own business after graduation and then the outbreak of the pandemic gave me the final push to start up. After that, the search for potential co-founders and shareholders began, as well as the preparation of a business and financial plan. As a first-time founder in the tech sector, I quickly realized that there are many obstacles to overcome in Germany. In the year and a half, I had to learn to trust myself and my gut feeling more and not to be influenced too much by the opinions of others.
In addition to your work at N Robotics, you founded the Rethink Ethics and Tech initiative, which aims to take a new practical approach to philosophy and apply these academic skills to the question of how to develop, design and use technologies that benefit society as a whole. To what extent do you bring this approach to your daily work?
My experience at Rethink Ethics and Tech laid the foundation for my founding of N Robotics. I started my own business with Rethink Ethics while I was still a student and was able to gain my first experience with projects and clients. At the same time, I realized the disadvantages of working alone and not being able to count on a team. Moreover, I felt the desire to stop talking or writing about the inclusive and responsible development and use of technology and to implement it myself. N Robotics, through its resources and the products with which we try to set new technical standards, offers me a much greater leverage to achieve this goal.
There is still a growing, large AI scene in Berlin. What advantages does the location hold for you?
When we founded the company, we weighed up for a long time what the right location would be for us. Since I had already been active in the Berlin AI and startup scene for years and was well connected there, the decision finally fell on Berlin. We appreciate the diverse and open culture, which makes it easy for new employees to settle in quickly, as well as the ever-growing community in the field of AI. I was surprised by the overwhelming encouragement and support we received from this community, and the benefits that being in Berlin has already had for us with potential customers and employees. I am happy to now be an active part of this scene and to further demonstrate the potential of combining AI and robotics.
Last but not least: What plans do you and N Robotics have for the future? What can we look forward to?
We want to become the European mobile robotics company that leads the way in the development of new technologies and applications. We would like to bring the topic of robotics even more into the focus of social discourse and take away people's fear of contact. At the same time, we have set ourselves the goal of not only further promoting diversity, sustainability and social responsibility within the company, but also expanding our cooperation with associations, schools and institutions.