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Building a Stronger Future for Pittsburgh's Robotics Industry Through the New Economy Collaborative

By Ben Pratt

Ben Pratt, NEC Regional Economic Competitiveness OfficerAcross an 11-county footprint of southwestern Pennsylvania, the New Economy Collaborative (NEC) is bringing renewed vitality to the region and enhancing opportunities  for a wide band of people, businesses and communities by extending the impact, reach and benefits of one of our marquee industries: robotics. Leveraging a groundbreaking set of programs, the NEC is spearheading efforts to propel the region into a new era of technological advancement and opportunity while prioritizing inclusivity and diversity – both demographic and geographic.

At the core of the NEC's mission are five key programs designed to nurture and expand Pittsburgh's burgeoning robotics sector, including:

  • Small and Medium Enterprise Robotics Adoption
  • Robotics Manufacturing Hub
  • Expanded Pathways to New Economy Careers
  • The Robotics Factory
  • Expanded Pathways to Entrepreneurship

These programs offer a multifaceted approach to support entrepreneurs; provide competitive advantages via automation to existing businesses, such an manufacturers; foster collaboration; and create opportunities for underrepresented individuals in the industry. By addressing both the economic and social aspects of growth, the NEC is laying a strong foundation for sustainable development and long-term success.

The NEC's commitment to inclusivity is a defining characteristic of all the work it is advancing. By actively seeking out and supporting entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, the collaborative is ensuring that the benefits of the robotics industry's growth are shared equitably across all the region. Through mentorship, financial support and networking opportunities, the NEC is breaking down barriers and opening doors for individuals who have historically been underrepresented in robotics.

One of the flagship programs of the NEC is the Training and Market Access for Entrepreneurs (TMACE) initiative, which aims to connect local BIPOC, women, veterans and rural entrepreneurs to contracting opportunities in the robotics and automation industries. By providing these entrepreneurs with the resources and support they need to succeed, TMACE is not only fostering inclusive economic growth but also promoting diversity and inclusion within the industry.

Additionally, the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute's Pathways Fellowship, supported by the NEC, offers aspiring entrepreneurs in robotics, manufacturing and automation access to financial assistance, academic opportunities, mentorship and off-campus resources. Through this program, the NEC is empowering individuals to explore and capitalize on the interdisciplinary nature of robotics, ensuring that a diverse range of perspectives contributes to the industry's advancement.

As Pittsburgh's robotics industry continues to evolve and expand, the NEC's efforts are crucial in shaping a more inclusive and prosperous future for the region. By fostering collaboration, supporting entrepreneurship and championing diversity, the organization is not only building a more connected community but also a vibrant, next-generation economy where opportunity is available to all. 

In a rapidly changing world where innovation is key, the NEC's commitment to nurturing a wide band of talent and fostering a culture of inclusivity sets a powerful example for other regions looking to harness the potential of powerful industry clusters, such as robotics is in southwestern Pennsylvania. As we look towards the future, let us celebrate and continue to support the NEC's vision and dedication to building a brighter tomorrow for Pittsburgh and beyond.