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Pittsburgh Continues Building Emerging Robotics Sector

The Robotics Factory is the latest addition to a new emerging economic sector in Pittsburgh, and it is slated to launch this week with speakers and a reception at its Lawrenceville center.

Closeup of a robotic hand pressing the spacebar on a laptop keyboard.
(TNS) — The Robotics Factory, the latest addition to an emerging economic sector in Pittsburgh, launches Thursday with speakers and a reception at its Lawrenceville center.

The 18,000-square-foot space in the Tech Forge building on 47th Street is currently home to six pre-seed robotics companies that are participating in Innovation Works' accelerate program, making them eligible for $100,000 in funding, mentorship and other resources needed for growth. Self-driving truck companies Aurora Innovation Inc. and the newly launched Stack AV generate headlines about Pittsburgh's growth as a robotics center, but what distinguishes the six startups is their tailored response to industry needs, according to the interim director of the Robotics Factory, Kevin Dowling.

"The self-driving vehicle industry is still in the R and D phase, but robotics is more than academic now; it's real," he said. "The long-term impact could be very high."

The Robotics Factory is an outgrowth of a competitively awarded $62.7 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant last year to the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative, which is intended to expand robotic and autonomy industries in an 11-county area around Pittsburgh.

Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian and Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman co-chair the New Economy Collaborative.

Built on steel production, the city is now home to over 100 organizations involved in artificial intelligence and robotics, according to the Pittsburgh Robotics Network.

Many of those outfits are located in the city's Robotics Row, a section of Lower Lawrenceville and Strip District anchored by Carnegie Mellon University's 200,000-square-foot National Robotics Engineering Center, which opened in 1996. CMU is planning to expand with a 150,000-square-foot Robotics Innovation Center for the Hazelwood Green site, off Second Avenue in Hazelwood, which will include a 65,500-square foot outdoor testing area.

"Pittsburgh has been a really great home for robotics for years now," said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, director of CMU's Robotics Institute. "We're building an ecosystem, and economically, they're high paying jobs."

Pittsburgh's autonomy sector, which includes a range of advancements from self-driving vehicles to AI-enabled manufacturing operations that perform without human supervision, has created 6,300 jobs, providing an estimated $651 million in labor income, $34.7 million in state and local tax revenues and $126.7 million in federal tax revenues, according to a 2021 study by the Regional Industrial Development Corp. and Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. The city is among the top centers for autonomous mobile systems, a sector that's expected to expand into a $1 trillion-plus global market by 2026.

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