Tech Forge, part of Lawrenceville’s Robotics Row, will house The Robotics Factory. Photo courtesy of Tech Forge.

A new robotics consortium is coming to Lawrenceville’s Robotics Row — Pittsburgh’s district of robotics organizations across a variety of stages of development and in various industries.

The Robotics Factory, which creates, accelerates and scales startup robotics companies in the region, is moving into the 18,000-square-foot Tech Forge building on 47th Street on Aug. 1. It will provide a collaborative space as well as critical manufacturing capabilities to help emerging startups scale their companies. 

Pittsburgh’s large and innovative robotics industry has garnered $3.4 billion in venture capital and private equity since 2012 and employs more than 14,900 people. It’s considered one of the top three robotics regions in the world, along with Boston and the Bay Area. 

The project is supported by Innovation Works, the Pittsburgh Robotics Network and the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative, a coalition of the region’s leading university, philanthropic and private sector partners. 

The Pittsburgh Robotics Network represents more than 100 robotics organizations in the Pittsburgh robotics ecosystem. Anchored by Carnegie Mellon University, the network brings industry and market relationships to its members. 

“There are a lot of challenges out there (in robotics),” says Jennifer Apicella, interim executive director of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network. “So it’s great that these startups are going to have so many more support systems working for them.”

The site was also supported by a $63 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative. The grant also funds four other regional projects.

“The robotics ecosystem has been here for decades,” Apicella says. “It’s been here quietly growing and we have companies that have been doing business for 10 to 20 years.”

The Robotics Factory operates three main programs. 

The Create program is an innovative space for entrepreneurs, technology experts and researchers, and industry professionals to address industry challenges.

The Accelerate program is a seven-month intensive program that propels up to six pre-seed robotics startups with up to $100,000 of funding, mentorship with companies in the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, and other resources to grow their companies. The new space will have a production-grade prototype shop and robot lab. 

The first six companies selected by Innovation Works to move into Tech Forge and participate in the program are:

  • Aquatonomy uses robots to survey underwater structures.
  • Cell X Technologies is industrializing the development and manufacturing of regenerative medicines.
  • Grasp Robotics develops robotic hands and other humanoid robots. 
  • Leaficent helps farmers control light through “light irrigation.”
  • Velo.AI is working to develop pedestrian and cycling transportation networks. 
  • Voaige uses artificial intelligence in the retail and food industries. 

The third Robotics Factory program, Scale, offers industry expertise with product prototyping and services.

“Hardware is hard,” Apicella adds. “We want to make sure that these entrepreneurs and companies have as many tools for success as possible. That’s through relationships, strategic partnerships and industry networks so that we can help them go to market faster.” 

A Pittsburgh native, Ethan is a freelance journalist interested in telling the stories of people doing great things to build community and sustainability. Ethan served as Editor-in-Chief of Allegheny College's newspaper, The Campus.