Blue Belt is also a prime example of what Pittsburgh wants to see. Instead of technologies that follow companies out of Pittsburgh, Smith & Nephew is building a Pittsburgh presence where none existed. The company has already shown a commitment to focus on its talent network throughout Western PA, with Pittsburgh serving as the company’s center of engineering, as well as quality and regulatory oversight.
“Pittsburgh leads robotics innovation, research and commercialization,” says Markovitz. “There is no argument that, when you put together a short list of world-class robotics centers, Pittsburgh is absolutely at the top of that list.”
Acatar, acquired by The Learning House in 2015, calls attention to another of the region’s strengths. “CMU is a world leader in the science and digital enhancement of learning,” explains Dave Mawhinney, co-founder and director of CMU’s Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Local researchers have put us on the map,” he says, “by marrying the physical and virtual worlds to create an intuitive, turnkey approach to education.”
The acquisition of Acatar positions The Learning House, an online program management company, to be more competitive as an enabler of high-end online courses that appeal to the country’s most prestigious universities.
Mawhinney sees what he believes to be a positive 10-year trend. “Pittsburgh is attracting companies from other high-tech hubs, not only because of the talent pool, but also because we offer a loyal workforce, a good quality of life and an affordable cost of living.” He notes, for example, that office space in Pittsburgh is on average four times less costly than comparable space in San Francisco.
Leaders of each acquired company agree that the region has an unparalleled level of talent and R&D capabilities. They also agree that Pittsburgh needs more capital to further advance its reputation as a hub for high-tech startups. More investors, they say, are a necessary part of creating a continuous and stronger cycle of research, product development, and regional business growth.