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First Cohort Participates in Innovation Works' Robotics Factory Accelerator

PITTSBURGH, PA – June 29, 2023 —  The first six companies have been selected to participate in the Accelerate program of the Robotics Factory, part of the effort to Create, Accelerate, and Scale robotics and related technology companies within the region’s Build Back Better initiative.  The Robotics Factory is led by Innovation Works with support from the Pittsburgh Robotics Network and is part of the regional set of related programs that make up the $63 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative. Learn more at

The Robotics Factory’s Accelerate program is an opportunity for up to six pre-seed robotics startups to receive up to $100,000 in funding from IW, mentorship, and resources to take their company to the next stage of growth. Similar to IW’s nationally ranked AlphaLab accelerators, the Robotics Factory accelerator is an intensive, seven-month program during which companies have access to co-working space, manufacturing and robotics resources including workshop and production facilities, and receive coaching and support tailored to their specific business needs. The participants will also have mentorship opportunities with other Pittsburgh-based robotics companies and national and global industrial partners via the Pittsburgh Robotics Network.

The six robotics companies that will participate in the Accelerate program are:

  • Aquatonomy provides underwater visual intelligence to submerged complex structures in challenging, unstructured environments through autonomous robotics and AI-grounded analytical tools, resulting in safer, cheaper, and faster operations and increased confidence.
  • Cell X Technologies is industrializing the development and manufacturing of regenerative medicines by automating manual processes and decision making. Their software, robotics, and machine learning/AI platform deepens scientific understanding, improves reproducibility, and identifies product quality metrics needed to commercialize these lifesaving therapies. The company’s platform reacts to the biology of the cells to produce a robust, automated process.
  • Grasp Robotics creates general-purpose robots to complete the tasks that people don’t want and shouldn’t have to do. The company is developing humanoid robots, beginning with a robotic hand to solve one of the simplest and most tedious tasks: picking up and moving an object.
  • Leaficient gives farmers control of light in the same way that irrigation techniques allowed farmers to control water in the early days of agriculture. Through intelligent “light irrigation”, farmers can extend their growing season, control quality and freshness, and expand the border of food production to areas that previously lacked the necessary growing conditions. Their team leverages its extensive experience in adaptive optics, machine learning and robotics to develop a solution that allows growers to manipulate every aspect of the light environment applied to their crops.
  • Velo AI is reinventing how to think about intelligent, connected mobility, with a strong focus on developing diverse transportation networks that are safer, smarter, and more efficient. Velo is born out of insights and discoveries at leading autonomous vehicle companies, but with a focus on delivering immediate impact through already realizable product categories; in particular, focused on improving the experience of vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Voaige is building DeepSpace, a foundational AI model for physical intelligence. DeepSpace allows robotic & automation experts to build end-to-end solutions for challenging physical tasks across food, grocery, consumer product brands and retail industries. It is the first vision system capable of handling items across industries without any training needed.

“The point of the Robotics Factory is to solve real-world challenges that can be addressed by robotics solutions,” said Kevin Dowling, Interim Managing Director of the Robotics Factory for Innovation Works.  “These six companies are doing just that.  There are existing issues with growing food efficiently, producing regenerative medicines, making transportation safer, exploring underwater, and carefully handling various products.  Our first cohort of companies are tackling some of the most fundamental issues for multiple technology applications and we’re excited to help them identify lucrative first markets, increase their technical capacity, help design for further manufacturing needs and tackle complex distribution issues.”


Terri Glueck, Innovation Works

Mobile 412-818-8191


About Innovation Works

Innovation Works (IW) is the Pittsburgh region’s most active investor in and supporter of early-stage companies developing hardware, software and life sciences technologies.  Though focused exclusively on helping startups in the southwest PA region, IW’s level of investment activity makes it one of the most active investors in the U.S.  Innovation Works is part of the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a network of four centers developed to help diversify PA’s economy and retain the state’s high caliber innovations that are invented and incubated here.  The Ben Franklin Technology Partners are partially funded by the Commonwealth of PA and overseen by the Department of Community and Economic Development. To date, IW has invested $117 million in over 700 companies that have brought in an additional $3.3 billion in outside funding, making it one of the most productive uses of state dollars.

About the Pittsburgh Robotics Network

The Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN) represents the companies and leaders who make up the Pittsburgh robotics ecosystem, which is anchored by Carnegie Mellon University, and driven by 130+ robotics organizations. It is the PRN’s mission to accelerate the adoption of robotic solutions by bridging this large and dynamic community, to the world. The PRN executes this by making connections, expanding collective knowledge and positively influencing the advancement of robotic and artificial intelligence technologies.

The Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN) is dedicated to empowering and strengthening robotics organizations in the Pittsburgh region and positioning the ecosystem as an internationally recognized powerhouse.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative

The Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative was formed to apply for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, the marquee initiative of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan programs which aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities. The Collaborative is an 11-county coalition, which includes dozens of organizations: community-based organizations, labor unions, educational and research institutions, economic development partners and leaders from the private, public and philanthropic sectors across all of southwestern PA. It focuses on communities that need support, adopting a hub and spoke approach designed to benefit not only the urban core but surrounding communities as well. The Collaborative is led by a board of directors co-chaired by Stefani Pashman, CEO, Allegheny Conference, and Farnam Jahanian, president, Carnegie Mellon University. On September 2, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the Collaborative as one of 21 winners of the challenge. The Collaborative will receive $62.7 million to build the region’s robotics and autonomy cluster. The award will fund five regional projects, which together are designed to provide long-term opportunities for individuals, businesses and communities in southwestern Pennsylvania to become involved in the burgeoning robotics and autonomy industry.