Startups

Whoa, CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center has helped launch a ton of Pittsburgh tech companies

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the NREC shared a report detailing its economic impact on the robotics industry and Pittsburgh region. Check out this list of nearly 50 local companies it spawned.

National Robotics Engineering Center's high bay area.

(Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University)

Want to find the future of Pittsburgh robotics? It might be a good idea to check out what’s going on at the National Robotics Engineering Center.

Now in its 25th year of operation, the Lawrenceville-based NREC — which is associated with Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute — this week shared a report authored by Fourth Economy Consulting detailing the economic impact the center has had in Pittsburgh and beyond since its inception.

The data presented by the report demonstrates just how influential the center has been in building the success of robotics in the Pittsburgh region, making this area a global capital for innovation in the industry. Over half of former NREC staff and researchers have remained in the Pittsburgh region following their time at the center, and three in five companies in Pittsburgh’s robotics, artificial intelligence and tech sectors have direct staff ties to NREC, the report found.

That influence has real growth and wealth impact, too. Today, there are around 20 active companies that were founded by NREC alumni, and the combined valuation of those companies and all others founded by the center’s alumni is over $25 billion.

Perhaps most notably though, is the local impact the center has had on economic development in Pittsburgh, helping to increase both jobs and salaries across the city. Where the Lawrenceville neighborhood had seen a dramatic population decline rate of 61% from 1940 to 1990, NREC has increased the number of jobs in the neighborhood by 68% and the number of workers living there by 23% from 2002 to 2017. Because of that, the median household income in the neighborhood has more than doubled, and in some areas that are closer to NREC, more than tripled. (Yes, this means gentrification, too.)

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Read the full report

Given how influential NREC has been on Pittsburgh’s robotics economy so far, it’s hard to imagine it not playing a part in the renewed push to make this city the robotics capital of the world. So while its spinoff companies continue to launch public offerings, internationally recognized products and other innovations, Technical.ly will also be on the lookout for what’s next from the center, as a hint to what the future of Pittsburgh robotics might look like.

Here’s the full scope of Pittsburgh companies that NREC has had a hand in growing, per the report.

NREC-alumni-founded tech businesses

NREC-affiliated tech businesses


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 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. -30-
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