June 29, 2021
The Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN), an alliance of robotics companies, research institutions, and universities in the Pittsburgh area, has announced it has grown to more than 100 members. The group has announced a commitment to make the city the “Robotics Capital of the World” through new strategic initiatives.
As part of the growth, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has commemorated the membership milestone with a $125,000 grant to support the continued growth of the PRN. Members include Carnegie Mellon University, Argo AI, Aurora, the University of Pittsburgh, Kaarta, RE2 Robotics, Neya Systems, Carnegie Robotics, HEBI Robotics, Near Earth Autonomy, BirdBrain Technologies, Omnicell, and Advanced Construction Robotics.
“We have created one of the world’s largest platforms where top robotics and AI companies work together,” said Joel Reed, executive director of the PRN. “We’re a community of innovators, builders, and makers determined to solve the world’s toughest problems. The PRN bridges this community to growing pools of worldwide talent, emerging industry networks, investors, and users of autonomous solutions.”
The group said since 2012, $3.3 billion in venture capital and private equity has been invested in Pittsburgh’s robotics firms, and nearly 600 patents have been awarded for robotics-based innovations. Pittsburgh is home to CMU, which founded the world’s first robotics Ph.D. program in 1988, and drives innovation through its Robotics Institute. This also includes the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREF), which has been transforming robotics research into practical industry solutions for more than 25 years.
“As Pittsburgh secures its spot as one of the largest robotic ecosystems in the world, the region hosts businesses and talent that will make a lasting impact on how the future of society operates,” said Martial Hebert, the Dean of the School of Computer Science at CMU.
The University of Pittsburgh helps to produce top engineers and scientific research from the Swanson School of Engineering and School of Computing and Information. “The research and innovation community at the University of Pittsburgh is excited to collaborate and learn from other members of the network,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt. “With our world-class engineering, computer science and information science capabilities, and our region’s reputation as a global leader in the industry, this alliance will help us continue to drive innovation in robotics and build the economy of the future.”
The PRN said that within the past five years, the technology talent pool in the city has grown by 20%, with more than 45,000 workers in the industry. In the robotics sector, employment has grown 300% since 2011.
“Even through the pivots resulting from COVID-19, this past year proved once again that whether you’re interested in robotic solutions that feed the world, travel without a human driver, innovate retail, or explore the moon, you’ll find world-changing solutions being catalyzed right here in Pittsburgh,” said Reed.
The city also boasts the birthplace of self-driving car development, which dates to research by CMU in the 1980s, and is home to Aurora, which acquired Uber’s Advanced Technology Group, and Argo AI, which is working with Ford (right) and Volkswagen to launch autonomous ride-hailing and goods delivery services. The company has grown its team to more than 500 people in Pittsburgh, and 1,300 worldwide since its 2016 founding.
“As a longstanding center of innovation, we are proud to call Pittsburgh home and to work alongside the region’s diverse talent and technology leaders to create real value for everyday applications, including mobility and transportation,” said Peter Rander, co-founder and president of Argo AI.
The PRN was originally formed by robotics leaders in 2016 for the purpose of building a connected community and leveraging shared resources. In 2020, the group expanded its mission to enhance Pittsburgh’s standing in the worldwide robotics community, and advance robotics and artificial intelligence technologies globally. The group convened in Pittsburgh to officially commemorate the membership growth with an event that included speakers such as Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Pduto; Martial Hebert from CMU; Argo’s Peter Rander; and Kevin Dowling, CEO of Kaarta. The $125,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation comes as part of its 2021-2030 Strategic Plan, which aims to foster business growth for a diverse pool of talent in specific industry clusters.
“The Pittsburgh Robotics Network will help position Pittsburgh as a national and worldwide robotics center – helping to attract new businesses, create new jobs and connect diverse talent pools to those new opportunities,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
For more information on the PRN, visit its website here.