On the third day of the Worldwide Convention on Robotics and Automation, I discovered myself zipping between drones, autonomous robots and a Tesla Mannequin S to maintain up with Vijay Kumar, the College of Pennsylvania’s dean of engineering.
The college had put collectively a tour of types for Anne Nadol, the Metropolis of Philadelphia’s new commerce director who’d come to the division in March after leaving a prime place at Temple College final summer season. Her objective, she advised me, was to fulfill as many Philly-based firms and do something — actually, something — to get them to remain.
Working example: Throughout a fast cease at Ghost Robotics’ exhibit sales space, we heard from cofounder Avik De that the town’s been good to the crew to this point, however that they’re at the moment splitting places of work between the Pennovation Heart and the Navy Yard as a result of they want distinctive area to develop and check merchandise. Nadol and fellow commerce division staffer Sam Woods Thomas started whipping out enterprise playing cards.
“We’ve acquired to have one thing higher suited to you,” Nadol advised the crew.
“Or we all know somebody who does,” Thomas added.
After which we had been off once more.
The group of us — Nadol, Thomas (the Division of Commerce’s enterprise attraction and improvement director), Penn communications execs Evan Lerner and Penn Heart for Innovation exec Laurie Actman— adopted Kumar by the crowded rows of the expo corridor on the Pennsylvania Conference Heart. Kumar would cease and rapidly shake fingers with about each fifth individual strolling by, and look again with a wave to ensure we had been following behind as he snaked by the subsequent row to introduce us to a different Penn spinout.
“He’s type of just like the mayor of the convention, isn’t he?” Actman mentioned to me as an apart.
.@AugeanRobotics’s Logan Danek explains the corporate’s Burro robotic’s essential capabilities throughout #ICRA2022 pic.twitter.com/xwgYCD3vyG
— Paige Gross ✨ (@By_paigegross) Could 26, 2022
Later, once we sat down to speak about conserving hardtech startups in Philadelphia, Kumar confirmed these suspicions: He’s attended each ICRA convention since 1986, solely lacking in 2001, for the start of his second daughter. This 12 months, he co-organized the convention for a second time, keen the hundreds of robotics professionals world wide to assemble right here in Philadelphia. The convention is about triple the scale because it was in 2019, Kumar mentioned, with greater than 90 exhibitors, 5 days of programming and about 7,000 attendees over the week.
“I co-organized it in Anchorage in 2010, and I swore I might by no means do it once more,” he mentioned. “However this 12 months, I felt Philly wanted a shot within the arm.”
The final time the convention occurred, it was held in Montreal, and subsequent 12 months it’ll be in London. Philly doesn’t get the robotics cred as many different cities do, nevertheless it doesn’t imply a robotics firm can’t develop right here, he mentioned.
So how can we increase its repute within the discipline?
The quick reply is by rising and retaining the expertise. That follow has formed different cities, Kumar mentioned, like Atlanta, which will get a lot of its workforce from establishments like Georgia Tech. Philadelphia has the establishments — robotics expertise is popping out of Penn, Temple, Drexel College, College of Delaware and even Princeton College — however the metropolis must proceed bettering its retention charges. One thing like 5% of STEM grads used to remain within the Philadelphia area upon commencement, nevertheless it’s growing to twenty to 30%, he mentioned.
And though Philly’s STEM ecosystem is evolving — peep its ever-growing life sciences sector — it’s not but competing as a hardtech hub, Kumar mentioned.
“It’s recognized for eds and meds, however I discover within the twenty first century, if you wish to be described as a progressive space, which we’d prefer to assume that we’re, it’s essential to add to that complexity,” Kumar mentioned. “We have to convey the know-how and the ecosystem. We’ve a provide of expertise, however we want an ecosystem that retains expertise. We have to do each, have extra expertise and construct on the suggestions loop.”
Did I actually go to #ICRA2022 if I didn’t watch autonomous automobiles race themselves? pic.twitter.com/6pTpli2eK2
— Paige Gross ✨ (@By_paigegross) Could 26, 2022
Earlier than stopping to observe autonomous automobiles race one another on the F1 Tenth Autonomous Racing Competitors, we go to Philly’s GIS-mapping drone firm Exyn Applied sciences, digital motor startup IQ Movement Management, IoT agriculture startup IoT4Ag and forestry mapping startup Treeswift.
“The potential is large right here,” Nadol mentioned earlier than working to a different engagement. “They’re right here and so they’re rising and we need to maintain it that method.”
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