CMU wins $250M to open advanced robotics institute in Pittsburgh |

CMU wins $250M to open advanced robotics institute in Pittsburgh

Aaron Aupperlee
Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University won more than $250 million in funding to launch an advanced robotics manufacturing institute in Pittsburgh, the Department of Defense announced Friday.

American Robotics Inc., a nonprofit spun out of CMU, will house the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Innovation Hub, part of the Manufacturing USA initiative.

The institute will work on integrating robotics and autonomy into manufacturing.

“Far from flattening jobs, robotic manufacturing will and can help create them,” CMU President Subra Suresh said at the announcement in Washington. “Through this new initiative, we will not only make robotics more accessible, we will usher in new manufacturing jobs across the nation.”

Robots build cars and are now driving them on the streets in Pittsburgh. Advancements in automation, however, have cost some people their jobs.

A report released Friday by the McKinsey Global Institute found that about half of all the jobs performed today could be automated by 2055. The report identified about 5 percent of jobs — manufacturing, accommodation, food service, retail — as candidates for total automation.

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The Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Innovation Hub will be the 14th Manufacturing USA institute in the country. The first institute, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, was founded in 2012 at America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio.

“We’re going to lower the barriers so that small- and medium-sized companies can embrace robotic technologies,” said Howie Choset, a professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute who worked on the university’s petition for the institute. “And most importantly, we’re going to assert the United States as the leader of robotic technologies. Right now, we’re not.”

Europe and Asia have the edge, Choset said.

American Robotics will start in Lawrenceville and eventually will move to the Almono development in Hazelwood. The institute will receive $80 million from the Department of Defense and $173 million from partner organizations, according to the Defense department.

Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, made the announcement. He was joined by U.S. Rep Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, Pennsylvania Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Kendall said that while the institute will focus on advancing American manufacturing, its work will translate to future battlefields and help keep U.S. soldiers safe. He said America’s adversaries are developing weapons systems aimed at defeating American technology.

“It is absolutely critical to our national security that the United States stay ahead of that curve,” Kendall said. “Advanced robotics presents potentially game-changing technology.”

The Department of Defense is the largest provider of federal dollars to CMU, giving the university $1.4 billion for research over the past 10 years, according to a federal contract database.

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