The Evolution of the Pittsburgh Region and its Economy
Southwestern Pennsylvania, which includes the urban core of Pittsburgh, has a rich manufacturing heritage.
As activity in the U.S. manufacturing and coal industries has declined throughout the past few decades, our region has experienced a significant loss of family-sustaining jobs and population. Employment loss in these industries came with serious population loss, especially in rural counties. These shifts have perpetuated economic and quality-of-life disparities by race and gender and widened the urban-rural divide in the region.
The ability of machines and systems to make decisions without human intervention in both the physical and digital realms is revolutionizing the global economy in industries like agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, logistics and retail. We project that the robotics and autonomy cluster can help address the region’s economic and demographic challenges, enabling southwestern Pennsylvania to renew its economic prosperity, address long-standing economic disparities and strengthen U.S. global competitiveness.
Today, we have numerous advanced industry sectors that are driving the region’s growth, including advanced manufacturing, energy, life sciences, robotics and AI, space and more. Our region has unparalleled innovation assets, including two Tier-1 research universities and more than 70 regional universities, colleges and other post-secondary institutions and a qualified workforce with some of the brightest minds in today’s leading industries.
Focus on Building a Robotics and Autonomy Cluster
Given the Pittsburgh region’s assets and growing base of companies, robotics and autonomy are uniquely positioned with the infusion of Build Back Better Regional Challenge funding to drive inclusive economic growth for the broader region. As a hub, the region can lead revolutionizing industries as varied as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, logistics and retail. Considered one of the next great “general purpose technologies,” robotics and autonomy will increase economic productivity, spur job growth and integrate with other major, crosscutting business trends, such as digitalization, cloud computing and open-source software.
Southwestern Pennsylvania possesses unique strengths in robotics and automation innovation and is a globally recognized leader. Our assets include:
- World-class research and development organizations.
- Strong, highly networked and collaborative educational institutions, training providers and unions.
- Organizations poised to advance regional equity with proven models
- Effective entrepreneurial support networks.
- Engaged cluster of technology and innovation firms.
- Long-standing, public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic sector engagement and cooperation.
As the robotics and autonomy industry grows, we have the opportunity to ensure equitable benefits reach individuals regionwide. Through regional upskilling programs, we can offer various training options outside of traditional four-year and advanced degrees and ensure that programs evolve based on industry needs. Funded projects will establish inclusive career pathways from high school and beyond, preparing new workers to thrive in robotics and autonomy.
Training, re-skilling and upskilling will be widely available through apprenticeships, community college programs and more. With a strong focus on equity, our goal – between 2023 and 2027 – will be to have greater representation in robotics and autonomy jobs by increasing the share of historically excluded communities, women, Black and Latinx workers in the sector. Through the various projects, we will offer:
- Displaced workers with distinct pathways to find training, placement and the necessary wraparound services needed so they can increase their wages and work in the communities they love.
- A brand-new initiative to expand the number and diversity of entrepreneurs in robotics and autonomy through a year-long fellowship led by the world-leading Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute.
When developing the strategy, we partnered with those who work directly with historically excluded communities and are leveraging member organizations that have the capacity and trust to engage these communities. Many of our partner organizations serve excluded populations directly, supporting students, workers, entrepreneurs and SMEs led by women, people of color and people from rural and coal communities. These organizations will receive resources for work as a critical contribution to the cluster’s success.