National Robotics Engineering Center Impact Report
Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC)
The National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon is a pioneering institution that focuses on development of applied technology. It is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood and has a strong network of alumni in Pittsburgh and beyond, many of whom are leaders in the fields of robotics and AI.
This was not a traditional economic impact study, for there is simply nothing traditional about the economic impacts of the National Robotics Engineering Center. Instead, the purpose of this document is to tell the story of the economic effects that NREC has had over its 25-year history, articulate a typology through which those impacts can be cohesively analyzed, and consider what lessons might be learned from NREC’s story to inform the future development of boundary-pushing institutions.
We helped NREC understand the impacts that its development has had as an institution through a variety of lenses and at a variety of scales.
NREC's story is an inescapably interesting one. What at the time seemed like a significant investment of over $8 Million dollars in 1995 has since yielded over $545 Million in private sector investment. Meanwhile, the talent pool developed by this institution and the Robotics Institute more broadly has catalyzed an economic transformation in Pittsburgh, especially in Lawrenceville and the Strip District, where tech companies have formed a physical cluster around NREC. And that's not to even mention the world-changing technology developed at NREC itself!
The impacts of development driven by the tech sector in Pittsburgh have not, however, simply been positive. As Lawrenceville and the surrounding area gentrified, residents and businesses were priced out. Our report also includes "Lessons Learned" that speak to the potential takeaways that future institutional development can take from NREC story.