Why Pittsburgh’s $62.7 Million in Federal Grants for Robotics Projects Are a Big Deal

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The Pittsburgh area just got a big financial boost to prepare for a robotic future, with a focus on the people who will build it.

Pittsburgh is among 11 regions receiving $62.7 million in $1 billion grants Regional Build Back Better Challenge from US Economic Development Administrationas announced Friday morning.

“The regional Build Back Better Challenge centers on a vision that, as our economy recovers and modernizes, and [as] science and technology is accelerating and changing the way we manufacture, we want small businesses and workers to lead this transition and not just be pushed aside,” President Joe Biden said during public remarks on funding.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaboration, made up of local universities, private entities and philanthropic leaders in the region, said the funding will be distributed among five regional projects designed to strengthen the region’s robotics industry and self-reliance. These projects are led by personalities like the pillars of local technology Institute of Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, innovation works and InnovatePGH.

“It was about fairness and people first. How do we ensure that people benefit from a forward-looking economy and sector?”

Stefani Pashman, Allegheny Lecture

What does this mean for Pittsburgh? According Stefani PashmanCEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the co-president of the collaborative alongside Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian, that means about $550 million in gross domestic product from that region. It also means 14,000 workers trained, jobs created and jobs retained in sectors such as health, manufacturing, energy and agriculture. And that means 750 small and medium enterprises and enterprises will be supported to upgrade their existing technology, as well as adopt new technologies for the future.

“It’s going to allow businesses to pivot,” Pashman said. Technically — “to be able to perform, work and prosper in the new economy.

The goal is to bring Allegheny County’s robotics companies and the 3,000 manufacturers scattered across the 11 participating counties together toward a more sustainable future. Funded projects emphasize equity among underrepresented communities in both urban and rural communities.

“It was about fairness and people first,” Pashman said. “How do we ensure that people benefit from a forward-looking economy and sector? We saw a really great opportunity to marry what’s happening with our technologists and roboticists with manufacturers looking for a way forward to try to understand how they adopt and adapt and how they can train a workforce for the future.

Pashman said the five projects were chosen by the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative because they had a track record of producing positive results for the region, and had received government grants in the past and used them well. In 2021, when the collaboration launched the application process, it brought together 200 partners to provide insight into areas that had the most potential for expansion and could benefit from additional investment.

In the end, these are the projects that correspond to the invoice, as described by the collaborative:

  • Expanded Pathways to New Economy Careers is led by Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and received $24.8 million to establish a highly coordinated regional development system to serve robotic technology developers and robotic technology adopters over the long term, opening up a range of training options outside of traditional four-degree degrees. years and advanced and ensuring that programs evolve according to industry needs.
  • Robotic Manufacturing Center is led by the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and has been awarded $14.2 million to reduce the risks associated with the adoption of advanced robotics and automation technologies by small and medium-sized businesses, as well as to accelerate commercialization robotic technologies in these entities.
  • Robotics Startup Factory is led by Innovation Works and has been awarded $12 million to create a world-renowned applied robotics startup factory that is accelerating the formation of robotics and automation-focused startups across multiple industry sectors including agriculture, construction , mining, energy, storage and manufacturing.
  • Expanded pathways to entrepreneurship is led by InnovatePGH and awarded $6.9 million to increase pathways to robotics and autonomy industries for underrepresented populations and launch new minority and women-owned businesses that can support the innovation economy.
  • Adoption of robotics by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is led by Catalyst connection and received $4.8 million to focus on building regional competitiveness by bringing Pennsylvania innovations in robotics and automation to SMEs in other sectors like agriculture, construction, energy, health, manufacturing, mining and transportation.

“Manufacturing is a critical capability for many companies, especially in robotics and autonomy,” said Mike FormicaGeneral Manager of Innovation Works Materials and Organization AlphaLab Equipment program, in a press release. “Partnering with local vendors allows startups to leverage years of expertise from those manufacturers, resulting in superiority. By working locally, product development can be dramatically accelerated through close interactions. We are excited to build and scale this model that will showcase the strength of our technology and manufacturing not only in this area of ​​Pittsburgh, but across the country.

Recipient organizations and other Pittsburgh leaders took to social media Friday to celebrate the funding:

Look for more information on the rollout of the projects in the coming weeks.

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