Officials hope a new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures will draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and convince those already there to stay put.
Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, General Electric’s investment arm, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an early-stage startup accelerator.
The for-profit hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at the university to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1JSN6fp ).
“A number of robotics companies have spun out of CMU, and many of the innovations created here have been licensed by industry,” said Martial Hebert, director of CMU’s Robotics Institute. “We have an opportunity to substantially increase the number of startups with roots in Pittsburgh, and so we welcome the assistance that The Robotics Hub promises to provide.”
GE provided an undisclosed investment to kick-start Coal Hill Ventures, a venture capital fund that’s expected to grow to $20 million by the end of the year. If everything goes as planned, Coal Hill will be writing checks next year of $200,000 to $2 million for 20 to 30 robotics companies that will be part of the hub.
The money will be a bonus for startups that say getting funding to grow in the early stages remains one of their toughest challenges, said Christopher Moehle, managing director of Coal Hill Ventures.
“A lot of those companies ended up giving up on the local circuit and moved outside of not only the western Pennsylvania region, but outside of the state,” Moehle said.
GE Ventures’ managing director, Alex Tepper, said the company plans to form ties with robotics firms focusing on software and hardware for field services such as inspections, maintenance and repairs or collaborative solutions for manufacturing companies.