Boston's Robo-Envy?

From the Boston Business Journal, last week:

Boston's tech industry has long competed for attention with Silicon Valley. But now it's jealous of a less glamorous rival: Pittsburgh.

While local tech leaders insist Boston is the Hub of the robotic universe, they gripe that Pittsburgh -- also known as "Roboburgh" -- is winning more of the credit. Now locals are hatching a plan to steal the thunder back.

Link: (subscription required)

[Thanks, Michael!]


4 Responses to "Boston's Robo-Envy?"

Schultz said... 2/23/2007 9:03 AM

I couldnt' read the article but isn't this really just an MIT vs. CMU rivarly thing? I know CMU's robotics consortium has won DoD contracts but outside of CMU we don't really have much going on, maybe just a spin-off or two. Combine our gov't contract wins and the success that the CMU team has had at the DARPA challenges and I think it would be tough for Boston to earn that reputation.

Anonymous said... 2/23/2007 11:35 AM

Hopefully the Technology Collaborative, the group that is focused in part on growing Pittsburgh's robotics industry, will step it up another notch to keep the perceptions that way. It would be a shame to have this lost, too.

Automated Healthcare, founded in Pittsburgh and now known as McKesson Automation is by far the biggest robotics company success here. I heard they have over $200M in revenues (and not from the gov't!) Can Boston compete with that commercial success yet???

Mike Madison said... 2/23/2007 11:46 AM

More from the story:

"To be sure, Pittsburgh boasts dozens of robotics companies, including McKesson Automated Healthcare Inc. and Bombardier
Transportation. It hosted a key robotics industry conference last year. And the area is home to the federally funded National Center for Defense Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University's expansive Robotics Institute (including the National Robotics Engineering Center ) and the Robot Hall of Fame (also located at CMU).

But Tom Hopcroft, vice president of the Mass Technology Leadership
Council, counters that most of Pittsburgh's robotics companies are tiny and its national centers are national in name only. The National Center for Defense Robotics, for instance, is an arm of a Pittsburgh economic development group and mostly funds local projects.

"I think Pittsburgh is doing a good job of talking about what they have there," said Hopcroft. "We have a lot more substance here."

In fact, the Massachusetts group estimates there are at least 150 local robotics companies in the
Greater Boston region, including the best known robotics firm in the country -- Burlington's
iRobot Corp., which makes the Roomba robot vacuum. And while CMU claims it operates the world's largest robotics research center, council leaders contend it can't match the combined firepower of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the galaxy of other local research centers."

Jonathan Potts said... 2/24/2007 2:55 PM

FYI, the Pittsburgh Business Times ran both the original story and a local-reaction sidebar.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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