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Massachusetts robotics companies employed 4,700 workers and generated $1.6 billion in revenue


Massachusetts Robotics Cluster report identifies “world-class companies and research centers driving innovation”, outlines opportunities for future growth

New research released today by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative cites 122 companies that now comprise the Commonwealth’s robotics cluster and that these firms employed over 4,700 workers and generated over $1.6 billion in revenue in 2015 alone.

The report also identified 33 new robotics startups that were created in Massachusetts over the past five years, an increase of 31 percent.

In addition to an assessment of the current state of the industry, the Massachusetts Robotics Cluster Report also outlines the key robotics sub-sectors where the Commonwealth is taking a global leadership role, including marine robotics, ecommerce logistics technologies, and collaborative robotics. 

The new research report, commissioned by MassTech and authored by ABI Research, provides Massachusetts economic development and technology leaders with an actionable roadmap that spells out ways that the Commonwealth can grow the robotics sector statewide, building off of the foundation of innovative robotics companies, world-class research universities, and skilled technical labor force.

As part of this roadmap, the report outlines four specific strategies to support the sustainability and growth of the robotics cluster statewide, including talent development, technology implementation, brand building, and cluster expansion. Under those strategies “prioritized recommendations” crafted by ABI Research aim to accelerate cluster development and enhance the impact of Massachusetts robotics technologies.

Pat Larkin, director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech, says: “This study confirms that our strong academic and R&D centers provide the Commonwealth with a base of robotics talent that is unparalleled, helping drive new research, the development of innovative technologies, and spinning out new startups.

“But most importantly, it provides Massachusetts with strategies that can help us supercharge the robotics cluster, including ways both public and private partners can work together to launch, attract, retain, and grow robotics companies across the state.”

ABI’s research confirmed that the Commonwealth’s robotics firms attract outside funding to the state, bringing in $190 million in private investment in 2015, equal to 23 percent of total US funding, second only to California.

The report also identified the key robotics segments where Massachusetts ranks consistently among the top 3 states in the country. According to the report:

  • Massachusetts leads in the emerging collaborative robotics segment, a market which is expected to grow to more than $1 billion by 2020;
  • Ninety (90) percent of the mobile ground robotics supplied to the U.S. military were developed in the state; and
  • The Commonwealth is a leading center for the development of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), which grew to a market size of $2.2 billion in 2015.

The development of the research was supported through roundtable sessions and interviews with 26 leading executives, academics, and researchers from many of the Commonwealth’s leaders in robotics development.

ABI Research took the input from those interviews to construct a report that identified the strengths of the Massachusetts robotics cluster, but also pinpointed key segments and emerging economic opportunities that will help grow companies in Massachusetts.

Dan Kara, research director, robotics, at ABI Research, says: “Robotics is a foundational, technology-based capability that has wide applicability and can act as the basis for creating wholly new classes of products, services, and industries, or enhancing existing systems.

“As such, the robotics sector provides for a wide range of business, investment, and employment opportunities, particularly for Massachusetts, which enjoys a number of distinct, and collectively, unique, advantages as a global robotics innovation hub.”

In addition to its strong base of companies, the report also points to the world-class academic and research centers that exist across Massachusetts.

The report identifies 17 research and testing centers that generate provide training for the Commonwealth’s high-skilled robotics workforce and help produce many top-tier companies.

In addition to top programs at MIT, Harvard, and Northeastern, the study also spotlights the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, “one of only three robotics test facilities sanctioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)”.

The research also notes that Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s dedicated graduate robotics engineering program was the first institution in the nation to offer three degrees in robotics.

In addition to university-based research labs, Massachusetts is also home to tier-one federal and private non-profit research labs that are driving robotics R&D, facilities such as the US Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center; Joint Base Cape Cod, which houses an FAA-approved test-site for unmanned aerial systems; and Cambridge’s Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.

The study also points to the role Cape Cod’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) plays in emerging marine robotics technologies, a role which led to WHOI receiving a $5 million dollar grant from MassTech to support development of R&D infrastructure in 2014.

The full report can be downloaded via MassTech’s website.