Startups to Watch: Which New Companies will Bring the Next Generation of Technology to Life
Story published by pittsburgh business times 6/2022
Home to over 100 autonomous technology companies, Pittsburgh has earned the title “Robotics Capital of the World” as one of the world’s largest commercial centers for autonomous robots. The region is second only to Detroit-Ann Arbor in concentration of market leaders, with more up-and-coming startups and early-stage companies being added to the roster.
Early this year, Richard King Mellon Foundation announced funding for 16 startups, investing a total of $3.39 million in winners of its pitch competition. Other organizations are recognizing more yet, including Pittsburgh Robotics Network, Pittsburgh Tech Council and Pittsburgh Inno’s March Madness, the technology publication’s first-ever bracket-style competition.
We wanted to spotlight a small sampling of those companies and the new technologies they’re bringing to life.
Allvision IO is a geospatial analytics company developing solutions — like their AIGIS mobile mapping system — that can process lidar, imagery, video and trajectory data for use in applications relating to transportation infrastructure, GIS and asset management (i.e., pinpointing signage, streetlights, overpasses, paint lines, guardrails and telephone poles).
Carnegie Foundry, a robotics and AI venture studio, helps launch innovative companies focused on industrial automation and robotics in partnership with National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). It helps develop, mature and commercialize cutting-edge intellectual property and advanced prototypes that are already market tested and ready for new and expanded applications.
Farm to Flame Energy
A provider of affordable and renewable power to areas that lack it, Farm to Flame Energy commercialized their proprietary biomass electricity generators and home heating products, and developed a unique combustion process that produces smokeless, odorless electricity generation using multiple plant-based feedstock.
A Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spinoff, Finish Robotics is an early-stage company that has developed autonomous robots to paint tall spaces and handle other finish level tasks, aiding the construction industry by addressing the growing shortage of skilled tradespeople. Recently, one of the company’s FinishBots completed painting 100,000 square feet at RIDC Westmoreland Innovation Center, a pilot customer.
A new company founded by Carnegie Robotics alumni, Hellbender is focused on the prototyping and commercialization of robotics and building a diverse tech workforce.
Idelic created Safety Suite, an end-to-end truck driver performance management platform for fleet professionals that utilizes proprietary AI and machine learning models to proactively predict and prevent crashes, reduce driver turnover and lower insurance costs.
This startup recently won first place in Pittsburgh Inno’s inaugural INNO MADNESS. MindTrace is a health care software developer, and spinout from CMU, that is creating tools to aid neurosurgeons in surgical planning.
Safe Space Technologies
Safe Space Technologies combines the disinfection properties of UV-C light with robotics to deactivate harmful pathogens. Their products — which include a mobile disinfection robot, a disinfection cabinet, a cart, and air sterilizers — were developed in response to the Covid pandemic and the requirement for businesses to disinfect their spaces more thoroughly.
TBD Robotics LLC
TBD Robotics developed a software toolkit called Advanced Robotics Kit (Ark) to enable all kinds of ready-for-production robotic functions — collecting data, controlling robots, running simulations, ingesting and organizing data logs, or orchestrating machine learning pipelines. Ark is a deterministic platform for building custom algorithms.
TouchWood Labs is the maker of a modular IoT unit that embeds into an assortment of materials that can then turn any surface into an interactive digital display. Its user interface utilizes opaque, non-glass surfaces, such as natural wood, stone, polymers and fabrics as digital interfaces for touch input and visual output with the goal of eliminating glass, which is prone to finger smudges, scratches, cracks and shatters.
Tronix3D, 3D/additive contract manufacturer and innovation center, develops unique parts and prototypes for customers in various industries, including robotics, energy, medical and defense. Tronix3D has partnered with Westmoreland County Community College’s Advanced Technology Center, an RIDC tenant, to develop a 3D printing curriculum and offer internships to students in the county.
Check out RIDC Mill 19, a revitalized Pittsburgh steel mill that’s become home to several leading autonomy and robotics institutions with space still available. The autonomy sector is rapidly growing in southwestern Pennsylvania, poising the region to take the lead as a global industry player.
The mission of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern PA is to catalyze and support economic growth and high-quality job creation through real estate development and finance of projects that advance the public interest. A not-for-profit entity, RIDC has developed over 2,800 acres in 14 industrial and innovation parks and manages over 7 million square feet.