A YORK-based entrepreneur who has launched a new range of ‘smart toy’ robots which teach children to code has secured £500,000 investment from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).

BinaryBots™ is the brainchild of software developer Chris Burgess, and is based at the York Innovation Centre with premises in Leeds employing nine people.

Chris’s company CB Information Systems (CBIS) has been supplying educational kits to schools since 2012, but BinaryBots is its first venture into the retail toy market. More than 6,000 kits have already been sold and the company has signed up resellers in Europe and North America. The funding will be used to build a supply of stock to enable it to take on larger orders.

Managing director Chris said: “Our mission is to make coding accessible and affordable for everyone. We believe robots are the best way to engage children in learning how digital stuff really works. As parents, being able to play with our children, have fun and teach them key skills in a digital age is a win-win.”

The range features characters including Binary, the robot inventor from Planet Hex, his best friend Dimm and the ‘super saucer’ UFO. Children build their own robot from a kit and learn to write code to control its actions.

The NPIF funding has come through Mercia Fund Managers who manage part of the NPIF.

Investment director Graham Davies said: “BinaryBots have so far been sold to distributors in small volumes to trial the products and have been well received. This investment will allow the company to fulfil larger orders and give it the opportunity to build a strong position in the growing market for ‘smart toys’.”

The British Business Bank has also welcomed the news, with director Grant Peggie adding: “Yorkshire and the Humber is a great location for investment and the digital and technology sector in the region is doing particularly well. BinaryBots has the potential to expand in this market, and we are pleased our NPIF fund managers have backed the company as it moves into the retail toy market.”