Robots upstaged the humans at MassRobotics’ workspace opening

2.22.17

By Kelly J. O’Brien, Boston Business Journal

MassRobotics, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering young robotics companies in Massachusetts, on Friday showed off what makes its new facility unique: when it came time to cut the ribbon, Boston’s mayor got some robotic help — from Baxter, a robot sporting a Patriots knit hat.

The newly launched office and lab space for robotics is in a city-owned building at 12 Channel St. in the South Boston Innovation District, based on other popular co-working ideas in the region: Think Cambridge Innovation Center or Somerville’s Greentown Labs, but for robotics. The 15,000-square-foot office includes 7,000 square feet of open workshop space and another 2,000 square feet dedicated to a high-tech machine shop for prototyping and related work.

On Friday, the open workspace was lined with representatives of the wider Massachusetts robotics cluster showing off their products, from drones to unmanned maritime vehicles to an autonomous “mole” for sweeping under the couch.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh was also on hand to tour the workspace. In a speech to attendees, Walsh emphasized the importance of the Massachusetts robotics industry in keeping top talent in the state and helping to build a skilled workforce for a next-generation economy. “The projects and the ideas housed in this workspace represent the future jobs and innovation for the city of Boston,” Walsh said. “But not just the city of Boston or the commonwealth of Massachusetts, all over the world.”

Thomas Ryden, the executive director of MassRobotics, said the organization is looking to raise $5 million in order to develop another 25,000 square feet of space available in the building.

According to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state’s economic development agency focused on the innovation economy, the Massachusetts robotics industry consisted of 122 companies with 4,700 employees in 2015. Those companies generated more than $1.6 billion in revenue in 2015.

The first wave of companies hosted by MassRobotics include American Robotics, Digital Alloys, Hurdler Motors, Air Force Research Lab HMSS and Square Robots.

MassRobotics sponsors include such local companies as Amazon Robotics, iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT), Draper and Vecna, as well as the Mass Technology Leadership Council, a consortium of tech companies.