The South Korean government has a lofty goal—it wants to put a robot in every house by 2020. As part of this grand high-tech plan, which is designed, in part, to protect South Korea’s economy for the future, the Government is considering investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build a robotics innovation center in one of three locations: Massachusetts, Georgia or the west coast. If the South Korean Government selects the Bay State (timing TBD), the upside would be huge—an enormous influx of capital would help drive local robotics innovation and product development, two activities that are already happening in at least two universities (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute) as well as at dozens of startups around New England.
Equally important is the impact such a visionary investment would have on creating jobs.
While traditional New England manufacturing operations for such industries as shoes and toys has moved offshore, advanced manufacturing, which the robotics industry requires, creates new, high-paying jobs. In fact, advanced manufacturing is the fourth largest employer in the Bay State, according to Ted Acworth, founder and CEO of Artiac, speaking at a recent Robotics Cluster gathering sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.
Earlier this spring executives from several local robotics companies and state legislators hosted a South Korean delegation in order to “pitch” the Bay State as the perfect location for the new center; next month delegates and legislators are expected to dine with executives from local robotics companies in order to continue the conversation.
It goes without saying that all robotics companies in and around Massachusetts, from Hydroid, iRobot and Harvest Automation to Symbiotic and Heartland Robotics, stand to benefit from this potential development, as does our economy (new high-paying jobs equals stronger local economy).
Naturally I hope the South Korean Government selects the Bay State for its new center. And I encourage everyone—at robotics companies or otherwise—to get involved, if you can, with whatever it takes to win this prize. But at the end of the day, even if the South Koreans decide to build elsewhere, the new attention on the topic of robotics will only help fertilize this budding business. Layer in Amazon.com’s recent purchase of Kiva Systems for $775 million and I believe we’re sitting on a rocket ship that’s about to take off. And yes—I can see robots driving that rocketship to Mars and beyond, can’t you?
Barbara Call is director of content at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1