Pittsburgh Robotics Network talks goals for 2018

Pittsburgh Business Times, Lian Bunny

The Pittsburgh Robotics Network has important plans for 2018, according to founding member Jackie Erickson.

By day, Erickson works in public relations and government affairs, consulting for robotics companies mainly in the Pittsburgh area. She founded Jackie Group, a technology and policy business consulting organization. By night/any time she finds available, she works to build up the Robotics Network.

The Robotics Network, about two years old, has three areas of focus: creating awareness of robotics in the Pittsburgh area, attracting and retaining technological talent in the region and ultimately using Pittsburgh’s technological growth story to attract more investment to the area. The group has no official funding, she said.

“We’re super scrappy,” said Erickson. “You have a ton of people doing a lot of work, but know that this type of organization is needed.”

The group hosts network meetups and recruiting events. Erickson said meetups and events attract close to 50 participants. Overall, she said about 40 local robotics companies are represented at events.

Kevin Dowling, founding member of the Robotics Network and CEO of Kaarta, said he organized an initial meeting in 2016 to see if there was a need for this kind of network in Pittsburgh.

“I think from the outset we just really wanted to increase and promote communication among companies here,” he said.

For 2018, Erickson said the group’s overall goals focusing on awareness, retaining talent and investment will remain the same. The Robotics Network also plans to become an official 501(c)(6) group, which is not organized for profit and where no part of net earnings benefit a private shareholder or individual, according to the IRS. 

Erickson said she hopes this will happen within the next two to three months.

There are about 50 robotics companies in the Pittsburgh area, said Erickson. But there’s probably more. She hopes to have a “state of the robotics report” created so the Robotics Network has better data to work with.

She said she has talked with the Robotics Industries Association president about his group helping with the report, possibly sponsoring it. 

“We are having more discussions later this month,” she said via email. “It's not a done deal yet, but that is something that is not only needed but also requested by our robotics companies in the area. They want useful data to point to when they sell ‘Roboburgh’ as well.”

Overall, Dowling said he hopes to improve the Robotics Network in 2018. 

“We just anticipate growing the (Robotics Network) and helping organizations and people as much as we can.”

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