Building back better with robotics
Southwestern Pennsylvania pulled in a $62.7M federal grant to build a robotics and autonomy cluster.
Pittsburgh’s robotics sector got a boost with a $62.7 million federal Build Back Better grant that will fund five regional projects spanning 11 counties in the area’s burgeoning robotics and autonomy industry.
The city is one of the top robotics ecosystems in the world and home to over 100 companies focusing on robotics and artificial intelligence. Since 2011, there has been a 300% growth in employment in the region’s robotics sector.
The grant was awarded to the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative -- a coalition of 90 organizations, including the region’s leading university, philanthropic and private-sector players and labor unions -- to energize the region’s robotics and autonomy cluster and ensure that its economic benefits equitably reach rural and coal-impacted communities.
The five interconnected projects support robotics and automation adoption, workforce development and commercialization.
A robotics manufacturing hub will get $14.2 million to de-risk the integration of robotics and automation for small and medium enterprises, and $4.8 million will go to an SME robotics adoption program to boost regional competitiveness by spreading innovation to the agriculture, construction, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, mining and transportation sectors.
A $24.8 million grant will fund a highly coordinated, regional upskilling program for robotics developers and adopters, opening a range of options outside of traditional degree programs and ensuring that training evolves based on industry needs. The grant will also help local workers transition to higher skilled positions, increasing average wages and supporting employee retention.
Two programs will support commercialization. A $12 million grant will be used to create an Applied Robotics Startup Factory to accelerate the formation of startups focusing on robotics and automation in multiple industry sectors. The other dedicates $6.9 million to help launch new minority- and women- owned businesses that can participate in the robotics ecosystem.
“The Build Back Better grant will bring renewed vitality to our 11-county region and enhance opportunities for a wide band of people, businesses and places in ways we have not seen before,” said Stefani Pashman, co-chair of the Collaborative and CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “The grant also puts a plan in motion for the adoption of robotics and AI technologies across a vast portfolio of existing businesses -- of every size and in all corners of the region -- and seeks to leverage our base of manufacturers to build robust local supply chains.”
“Southwestern Pennsylvania winning this significant Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant is a testament to the sheer power of collaboration that’s been so integral to the transformation of our regional economy,” said Farnam Jahanian, president of Carnegie Mellon University. “This effort will catalyze new programs and partnerships that share our region’s distinctive strengths in robotics, AI and automation with new and small businesses in our key sectors, while elevating and training a more resilient workforce.”