On Friday, American Robotics, a nonprofit spearheaded by Carnegie Mellon University, was awarded more than $250 million to create a robotics institute in Pittsburgh.

American Robotics, which has over 220 partners across industry, academia, government, and nonprofit groups, received $80 million from the US Department of Defense (DoD) and $173 from other groups to lead the Advanced Robot Manufacturing Group (ARM). The award will put Pittsburgh in a position to capitalize on advanced technology in manufacturing, artificial intelligence, autonomy, 3D printing, and other technologies to create innovations in robotics.

“This new institute will provide significant benefits to the region and the nation, while creating enormous opportunities for CMU scholars and researchers, and new momentum for the university,” said Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh in a press release. “The institute, in return, will benefit from CMU’s expertise in technology, as well as its strengths in policy, ethics, and human interfaces that will ensure that new technologies work to benefit humankind.”

The institute, said CMU Provost Farnam Jahanian in a press release, “will tap into CMU’s research strengths…to bridge the gap between research, innovation and practice in the emerging field of advanced manufacturing.”

At the heart of the announcement is the potential for job growth, as new jobs can be created with the US at the forefront of innovation in robotics manufacturing.

The ARM will work on defense and industry-related technology, focusing on “aerospace, automotive, electronics and textiles.” It also will join the Manufacturing USA institute network, a convergence of industry, academia and government that works to ensure the US remains competitive in manufacturing.

While robotics are critical for defense and manufacturing, they are often expensive and difficult to program. Yet they are important for smaller manufacturers. ARM will attempt to address this barrier, finding solutions to better integrate robots across all different fields.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called the history of his city an “overnight success story.” After the steel industry went down, he said, the city came together. “We collaborate, we work together,” he said, “across business, industry, and universities.”

According to Carnegie Mellon professor Howie Choset, the ARM Institute has four goals: “to empower American workers to compete with low-wage workers abroad; create and sustain new jobs to secure US national prosperity; lower the technical, operational, and economic barriers for small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as large companies to adopt robotics technologies; and assert US leadership in advanced manufacturing,” he said in the press release.

When Pittsburgh’s industry collapsed, “we saw our city die,” said Peduto. “But there were visionaries. We created the first program in the world in robotics. Pittsburgh survived because of partnerships.”

The new institute, said Peduto, will help Pittsburgh rise again to a global level. “It wasn’t steel that got us here,” he said. “It was innovation.”

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The nonprofit American Robotics received more than $250 million in funding to head the Advanced Manufacturing Institute in Pittsburgh.
  2. The institute will use Carnegie Mellon University’s expertise in technology to ensure that “new technologies work to benefit humankind.”
  3. The institute may have the potential to create new jobs through advanced tech in manufacturing, and through putting the US in the lead of innovation in manufacturing.

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