Business development / Robotics / Startups

Innovation Works’ Robotics Factory is moving to Robotics Row

Stakeholders say the space enables the Build Back Better-funded program to better support young robotics companies and give them a place to scale.

RIDC's Tech Forge building. (Courtesy photo by Desmone Architects)

Robotics Factory has a new home, and it’s none other than RIDC’s Tech Forge building at 113 47th St. in Lawrenceville.

The location is a part of Robotics Row, where it will live alongside the likes of Smith+Nephew’s  robotics research and design center. The Row occupies the area along the Allegheny River that begins in the Strip District and ends in Lawrenceville.

Now, with this location as a home base, stakeholders believe the Robotics Factory will be better able to meet its goal of supporting robotics startups in the Pittsburgh region. The Factory, which is run by early-stage investment firm Innovation Works, includes three programs designed to set up robotics entrepreneurs to be self-sufficient and thrive in the local industry: Create, Accelerate and Scale.

Robotics Factory is funded by the federal Build Back Better Regional Challenge program, which in September 2022 dedicated nearly $63 million to Pittsburgh tech organizations focused on startup support and workforce development.

“We conducted a thorough site identification and selection process, evaluating sites on the basis of a range of parameters,” said Ven Raju, president and CEO of Innovation Works, in a statement. “The Lawrenceville site best aligns with the overarching strategic goals of the Build Back Better regional challenge grant while meeting functional, operational and budgetary requirements.”

Use of the space will begin Aug. 1. All three Robotics Factory programs will be housed in the facility. That includes the six companies in the first cohort of the Accelerate program, the Factory’s robotics startup accelerator, as well as the in-house product prototyping, manufacturing and other services offered by the Scale program.

Moving forward, stakeholders in the region believe that having a home for The Robotics Factory will solidify the region’s growing robotics cluster and enable the city to continue using the Build Back Better funding to grow its expertise in robotics and autonomy.

From the perspective of Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman, who serves as the co-chair of the regional Build Back Better group, this new space is proof that in less than a year since receiving the $63 million from the program, the city has made substantial progress in reaching its goals.

“Pittsburgh has one of the most dynamic and regarded robotics clusters in the world,” Pashman said. “With its first cohort recently launched, the Robotics Factory has come to life. If you want to shape the future with robotics and autonomy, you need to be in Pittsburgh.”

Per Innovation Works VP of Communications and Community Development Terri Glueck, the firm’s software-focused AlphaLab and hardware-focused AlphaLab Gear accelerators will also move to Tech Forge in the future, though no official date has been set. The healthtech-focused AlphaLab Health accelerator will remain at Allegheny Health Network’s Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 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: Allegheny Conference on Community Development / Innovation Works (Pittsburgh)
People: Ven Raju

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