InnovatePGH wants to make the field of robotics more inclusive by funding Build Back Better

InnovatePGH wants to make the field of robotics more inclusive by funding Build Back Better

For years, experts and enthusiasts from science fiction writers to university faculty have predicted that robots are an inevitable part of our future. However, with the demographics of the field of robotics itself Severely deviate eggs and malesThe industry has yet to catch up with the general diversity of the modern workforce.

With $6.9 million courtesy of Rebuilding the regional challenge better Financing, promoting public-private startups InnovatePGH He wants to change that with a program called Expanded Pathways to Entrepreneurship.

The goal of the program is fairly simple: to facilitate entry into the field by women and individuals from marginalized communities who are interested in the robotics and autonomy industries.

“The challenge with robotics that I don’t think anyone is hiding from in robotics at this point, is that it’s a very specialized field that generally requires very intense educational attainment,” Sean LutherCEO of InnovatePGH, said Technical. “As a result, when you combine that with our systemic marginalization in the tech industry, you end up with robotics companies being founded by the same types of people with the same socioeconomic background over and over again.”

While some details are still pending, currently the program is being overseen by Luther and Lindsey PowellDirector of Workforce Strategies at InnovatePGH – aims to make the paths to these industries less narrow by giving 40 new and existing founders everything they need to thrive, whether it’s capital, technical assistance, or connections with contacts they have experience that they can draw on.

“We are excited to bring more people to the negotiating table to make sure our partnerships are intended and reach the populations we need.”

Lindsay Powell, InnovatePGH

“This is really going to be an opportunity for small, new and existing businesses with founders who are known as BIPOC, who are defined as women, who are defined as people from a rural country or coal country, who are able to participate in the innovation economy in ways they haven’t been before,” Powell said.

While one aspect of the Expanded Pathways to Entrepreneurship focuses on helping founders, another wing of the project is the Robotics Fellowship being launched in partnership with Carnegie Mellon UniversityAnd the Riverside Innovation Center and the University of Pittsburgh. The fellowship is designed to give participants a subsidized education that Powell says will prepare them to be candidates who could fit in with any robotics or automation company. This new program sits alongside other equity-focused workforce development programs from InnovatePGH, including recently launched programs Innovation Zone Skills Alliance.

The fellowship is not due to begin accepting applications until 2023, but once it does, it will seek seven fellows with the goal of obtaining a total of 28 fellows over the four-year program duration. Once the program is complete, Powell and Luther hope that program participants have learned enough to participate in other programs that have received “Build Back Better” funding, such as innovation business Robot startup factory.

“We believe that our companies that participate in the program will be able to take advantage of the growing number of robotics companies and the connected advanced manufacturing economy built into the project,” Powell said.

As InnovatePGH continues to flesh out the details, the ultimate goal of this program – ensuring marginalized people can see a path into the field of robotics – remains consistent. Powell said the organization is excited to do its part to make the field more inclusive.

“Being able to create more space in this growing field is really exciting, and having the opportunity to launch this work here in Pittsburgh is exciting,” Powell said. “We are excited to bring more people to the negotiating table to make sure our partnerships are intended and reach the populations we need.”


Atiya Ervin-Mitchell is a member of the 2022-2023 team for Report for America, an initiative of the Groundtruth Project that brings together young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by Heinz Endowments. -30-


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