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Pittsburgh / Robotics

Pittsburgh Robotics Network chose a familiar face to be interim executive director: Jenn Apicella

As ED Joel Reed exits, Apicella told that under her leadership, the org will continue pursuing strategic partnerships and supporting programs funded through Build Back Better grants.

Jenn Apicella. (Courtesy photo)
The Pittsburgh Robotics Network is under new management.

The organization’s executive director for the past three years, Joel Reed, announced last week that he is stepping down to pursue “developing opportunities I see that will impact the commercialization of robotics solutions — in Pittsburgh and beyond.”

“An industry professional at my core, I am proud to leave the organization well-positioned to grow and pursue further economic development initiatives for the betterment of Pittsburgh’s robotics economy,” wrote Reed, who before this role was CEO of Lawrenceville’s IAM Robotics. “I thank Jennifer Apicella, the PRN team, the Board, and Kevin Dowling, Jorgen Pedersen and Parag Batavia in particular for their support and commitment and have utmost confidence in their ability to propel the network even further. This is an exciting time for the robotics industry, and I am thrilled to be back in the game.”

The membership org didn’t need to go far to find its interim ED: Apicella, the former VP focused on programs, partnerships and development, has taken its metal reins.

“I will now be directly responsible for the organization overall,” Apicella told That means “aligning our programs and our marketing and our members and our services and our strategic alliances with the regional economic development community, and overseeing our global strategy.”

Looking back on Reed’s time at the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, Apicella called him an asset to the region’s robotics companies and commercialization efforts, both prior to and during his time as executive director. She also anticipates Reed will continue serving the region’s robotics cluster well, and said the door is open to him to work with the PRN in a new capacity. (Reed didn’t reply to’s requests for comment.)

In the organization’s more immediate future, however, Apicella said she’s looking forward to seeing through the local robotics programs born of 2022’s Build Back Better grants and pursuing strategic partnerships that benefit both Pittsburgh and the region.

“We will be sought as a trusted adviser to enable those workforce initiatives to connect properly with our companies to properly identify what skills they need, what workforce challenges they need to solve,” Apicella said. “We’ll be seeking to connect them with the businesses to make sure that they are what they need, and that they are created in a way that will be properly utilized.”

Some of the programs that received such funding in 2022 include Catalyst Connection’s Small and Medium Enterprises Robotics Expansion project, InnovatePGH’s Expanded Pathways to Entrepreneurship program, and the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute’s Robotics Manufacturing Hub.

The Pittsburgh Robotics Network will searching for a permanent executive director from both inside and outside of the region. In the meantime, Apicella said although her title has changed, she’s committed to continuing to foster beneficial relationships for the robotics sector while creating new programs.

“Through strategic partnerships, both here locally, and globally, I would like to make sure that we continue to grow in those relationships and to continue to collaborate,” she said. “I’d want to continue to have Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania be on the map and recognized as the global robotics and autonomous systems cluster powerhouse that we are.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Pittsburgh Robotics Network
Series: Power Moves

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