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September MassTLC Robotics Cluster Meeting Recap

MassTLC – Robotics
Cluster Meeting
September 18, 2012, 8:30 -10:30am
Vecna Technologies, Cambridge, MA
Attendees:
Ted Acworth,
Artaic; David Askey, Energid; Martin Beuhler, Vecna; Kim Blair, Cooper Perkins;
Valerie Buchalet, Invest in France; Ben Flaumenhaft, Harvest Automation; Michael
Gennert, WPI; Kathleen Hagan, Hagan and Co.; 
Kristen Johnson, Symbotic; Joe Jones, Harvest Automation; Kevin Leary,
Power Hydrant; Jim Mail, ABB; Michael McGurk, Finnegan; Elizabeth Newstadt,
MassTLC; Betsy Ross, MassTLC; Barbara Rudolph, Rudolph Communications; Tom Ryden,
vGo Communications; Rob Smith, iRobot; Bob Steingart, Steingart &
Associates; Debbi Theobald, Vecna; Didier Vanden Abeele, CEA LIST; Cheryl Walsh,
FIRST; Maggie Weeks, Symbotic; Jill Wittels, Sostenuto Strategic Advisors; Yanliang
Zhang, Mathworks; Bill Zimmer, Server Technology
Welcome and
Introductions – Mike McGurk of Finnegan spoke to the group as the new sponsor
of the MassTLC Robotics Cluster.
Recent
Cluster Highlights
·       
Rethink
Robotics unveils Baxter
·       
iRobot
acquires Evolution Robotics
·       
Aquabotix
featured in Mass High Tech
·       
UMass
Amherst researchers develop robots to aid stroke victims
·       
iRobot
announced the launch of the iRobot Looj 330 and the iRobot Roomba 600
·       
Medrobotics
receives $8M
·       
Maine
start-up, Howe & Howe Technologies, has developed a robotic fire fighter
·       
Quiet
Logistics expands to West Coast
·       
Energid
to provide software for a robotic satellite servicing spacecraft
·       
iRobot
unveiled healthcare robot, the RP-VITA
·       
Rethink
Robotics, formerly Heartland Robotics, received $30M in funding
·       
MIT,
Bluefin Robotics and Harvest Automation recently featured in the Economist

Robotics
Event Updates
·       
RoboBusiness,
October 22nd to 24th, Pittsburg, PA, http://www.robobusiness.com/
·       
French
Robotics Delegation in Boston – November 12th-16th
Executives
from top French robotics companies and Research facilities will be visiting
Boston and attending our next Robotics Cluster meeting on November 13th.
Northeastern will host a panel discussion entitled, “Robotics and Entrepreneurship”
on November 14th which will include MassTLC cluster companies as
well as some of the French companies.
·       
MassTLC
unConference November 16th , https://mtlc.co/?page=unConference
·       
TePRA,
April 2013, http://www.ieeerobot-tepra.org/
·       
2013
National Robotics Week – MassTLC branded event in April, more to come in
November
Robotics Initiatives
·       
Robotics
Virtual Organization, http://robotics-vo.us/ , is a web based community/network which is currently
sponsored by the National Science Foundation. There is some good information
there on funding and events.
·       
National
Robotics Initiative Update – The next round of proposals are due in December
2012/ January 2013. Of the proposals submitted last year, only 2% were funded. The
latest solicitation can be found at,  http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12607/nsf12607.pdf
·       
Nancy
Saucier of UMass Lowell gave an update on their New England Robotics Validation
and Experimentation (NERVE) Center, http://nerve.uml.edu/. The NERVE Center is opening in
Lowell, MA in February 2013. Nancy is actively looking for input into test
course and use cases for the NERVE Center. Please contact Nancy at Nancy_Saucier@uml.edu.
·       
The
DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is scheduled to launch in October 2012 and run
for approximately 27 months with three planned competitions, one virtual
followed by two live. The challenge will focus on humanoid robots used for
disaster response. Events are planned for June 2013, December 2013 and December
2014.  http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/iros-2012-darpa-robotics-challenge-update
Panel
Discussion: Accelerating your Robotics
Start-up with Alternative Funding
Ted Acworth, Mass Challenge Finalist
and Founder of Artaic
Nick Pappas, Vice President, MassVentures
Mark Smithers, CTO, Boston Engineering
Moderated by: Steve Kelly, President
and COO, Myomo
Our panel
discussion was focused on alternative funding, how best to find it, utilize it
and avoid pitfalls for your growing business.
Mark Smithers
and Ted Acworth discussed SBIR grants
first. Mark Smithers recommended that you use the SBIR grants to build on a
company’s core technologies. He suggested applying for grants that contain
similar research to what a company might already be doing or have done. This
will keep the technology focused and moving forward. Mark also suggested
partnering with a university as a way to get started with research grants.
The START program was launched in 2012 by
MassVentures and sees itself as an accelerator for companies who have received
SBIR II grants. START funding is given to companies specifically for the
commercialization of their technology. Nick Pappas of MassVentures emphasized the
simplicity of applying for the START program, http://mass-ventures.com/start-program/. Ted Acworth was also able to talk
about his experience with the program. In addition to funds towards
commercialization, the program offers, coaching, business planning and
introductions to potential investors.
  
Ted Acworth
brought up Debt financing as another
means of financing a company. Debt financing from a bank or an institution like
MassDevelopment, http://www.massdevelopment.com/, can help in ramping up manufacturing
or gaining a line of credit to cover inventory. Mark Smithers discussed Customer financing and how a company is
able to keep a core technology while developing a specific application for a
company.
Some other
forms of grants and funding available are MassMEP workforce training grants and
the MassChallenge competition. The discussion wrapped up with our moderator, Steve
Kelly, talking briefly about crowd
funding
through sites like Kickstarter and Rockethub.
Vecna PresentationDeb
Theobald, CEO, Vecna Technologies
Vecna is a
privately held robotics company which has benefited from multiple SBIR’s over
the years. Vecna was started 1999 and now boasts close to 200 employees.
Vecna’s QCbot acts as a courier and delivery agent drawing information from the
hospitals IT system. Currently, hospitals sped one third of their budget on
logistics. The QCbot will help hospitals save money on logistics and allow
nurses to spend time with patients instead of moving dangerous materials.
Thanks to a contract
with the department of Veterans Affairs, Vecna is currently ramping up
production of their quiosks and moving their manufacturing operations to
Woburn, MA.
At Vecna,
employees are encourages to spend up to 10% of their working time on community
service projects. The
engineering team is developing and improving low-cost and easy-to-use
technologies that connect patients with care and medication. These solutions
are making an impact on families and medical clinics around the world. These
units are able to do patient intake and visit information with rugged touch
screen tablets, cell phones, solar panels, and biometric devices.
Next Meeting
November 13,
2012 – Bluefin Robotics

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