Pennsylvanian Gaining Space and Defense, Life Sciences, Energy, Robotics and AI Advantages

Pennsylvanian Gaining Space and Defense, Life Sciences, Energy, Robotics and AI Advantages

Pennsylvania is the most economically diverse state in the U.S. Its $930 billion GDP makes it the sixth largest economy in the country and a leading global economic hub. From corporate headquarters (home to 23 Fortune 500 companies), to state-of-the-art R&D facilities, to more than one million small businesses and startups, its business environment empowers companies to be revolutionaries in their industry and redefine success. Under the leadership of Governor Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania is laser-focused on innovation as a driver of the economy. And the perfect example of Pennsylvania’s commitment to innovation can be found in its rapidly growing space and defense ecosystem.

Pittsburgh-based space robotics company Astrobotic is set to launch its first commercial mission to the moon using its proprietary Peregrine lunar lander in Q4 of 2023. The mission is poised to become not just the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo missions in the 1970s, but also the first commercial spacecraft in the world to accomplish a successful moon landing. Astrobotic, which originated as a spin-out of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is a true home-grown Pennsylvania success story and is one of the most visible ways that Pennsylvania is driving innovation forward for the country and for the world.

But the aerospace ecosystem in Pennsylvania is more than just about one company going to the moon. From the microgravity biotech commercialization at the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to the manufacturing supply chain in Northeast Pennsylvania, to the materials and propulsion research at Penn State University, the Commonwealth is home to a broad range of businesses and organizations in the space, aerospace, and defense industries. Its world-class educational institutions fuel the research and workforce that aerospace companies need to succeed. Its regional location is within easy driving distance of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Defense (DoD) centers. And its partnership and support networks are ensuring that the rapidly accelerating growth in this sector is collaborative, inclusive, and strategic.

For example, in December 2022, the Keystone Space Collaborative – a regional consortium of space and defense businesses, educational institutions, and economic development organizations – along with Astrobotic and AFWERX, announced plans for a new $1 billion Space Innovation Center that will be located in Pittsburgh. The center will increase engagement and collaboration with space, defense and dual-use technology companies in Pennsylvania and across the tri-state region of PA, OH, and WV – which will help encourage the creation of new space companies and help attract out-of-state space companies to the region.

In many ways, space is the next frontier of investment and economic development. Pennsylvania’s business climate, academic institutions, and economic development organizations across the state are ready for the next great advances in space technology to be developed in the Commonwealth.

From medical research and laboratory testing to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, Pennsylvania has become an epicenter for life sciences companies. Its nearly $50 billion life sciences ecosystem is driven by world-class R&D institutions, top-notch universities and incubators, technical assistance, and strategic investments in venture capital, technology, and infrastructure. In fact, Pennsylvania is among the top states in key measures of bioscience R&D and innovation, including academic R&D, NIH research funding, venture capital investments, and patenting.

Those assets are why Pennsylvania has seen big wins in the life sciences lately, such as global resin manufacturer Purolite choosing to establish its first U.S. biologics division in Chester County, just outside of Philadelphia. Announced in Summer 2023, this expansion will invest nearly $200 million into the local economy and create more than 170 new jobs. And when construction is completed – currently on track for the first half of 2025 – the new facility will be creating the high-quality resins used to make life-saving drugs. The project was supported by the Governor’s Action Team, an experienced group of economic development professionals who report directly to the Governor and work with businesses that are considering locating or expanding in Pennsylvania. 

In the City of Philadelphia itself, the life sciences industry is seeing a high demand for lab space. In response, Spark Therapeutics (owned by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche) broke ground in early 2023 on a six-story cell and gene therapy center slated to be completed in 2026 – and will be one of the city’s largest life science centers to date. The lab will provide in-house manufacturing and serve as a global hub for gene therapy, further cementing Pennsylvania’s place as a rapidly emerging world leader in life sciences. Spark will also partner with Drexel University to advance the life sciences workforce in the region, allowing for hands-on learning experiences and R&D.

In addition to fostering the expansion of established businesses, Pennsylvania also offers substantial support for life science entrepreneurs starting or running an early-stage business. Organizations like the Life Sciences Greenhouses, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and the PA Business One-Stop Shop help new business owners navigate through those critical early stages with technical and financial assistance. Pennsylvania business and economic development leaders understand that supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem is necessary to ensure the next great medical innovations are developed and produced in the Keystone State.

Major industry leaders like GlaxoSmithKline and AmerisourceBergen have established headquarters in the Commonwealth, and other well-known businesses like Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, Bayer Healthcare, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and 2,300 other life science establishments have a presence in Pennsylvania. Its world-leading life sciences ecosystem is well-positioned for continued growth in the years ahead.

Pennsylvania’s abundant and diverse energy portfolio is one of its greatest strengths. Pennsylvania offers energy companies plentiful reserves of natural gas for energy production or manufacturing companies with extensive energy-intensive processes. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Commonwealth produces the second-largest amount of energy in the United States. Its natural gas reserves – ranked second in the country producing more than 7.1 trillion cubic feet per year – have drawn plenty of attention for powering homes and meeting the demands of even the most energy-hungry businesses like heavy industry and data processing. But in the midst of a fundamental transition in the way the world produces and consumes energy, Pennsylvania is also looking forward.

The Commonwealth has been aggressive in pursuing opportunities for hydrogen development alongside carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). Hydrogen represents a major shift in energy development. It can be used to as an energy source for intensive industrial processes, fuel cells, and in electricity generation – and it can help decarbonize industry and transportation when it is produced with zero- or low-carbon technology. That’s why, in 2022, the Team Pennsylvania Foundation partnered with the state government and private, labor, and nonprofit leaders to create the Pennsylvania Energy Horizons Cross-Sector Collaborative. Through this partnership came a comprehensive report, Successful Deployment of Carbon Management and Hydrogen Economies in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which highlights key priorities for the state to meet its climate goals, maintain its leading competitive edge in energy production and industrial manufacturing, and secure billions of dollars in new federal funding and private investments.

In fact, with $7 billion made available by the federal government for the creation of up to 10 new “hydrogen hubs” nationwide, Pennsylvania organizations – including the Team Pennsylvania Foundation – have submitted three separate applications to establish hydrogen hubs. The state government has also created a new tax credit program for businesses that incentivizes companies that will produce hydrogen in the Commonwealth for the next 20 years.

This pursuit of hydrogen development is also paired with a commitment to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which have specific funding programs to support them. The overall goal is a robust and balanced energy portfolio that maximizes Pennsylvania’s current strengths in natural gas production while strategically implementing sustainable and climate-friendly energy development.

For businesses that are looking to produce energy or that require an abundant supply of energy to operate, Pennsylvania has the infrastructure and workforce that they need to grow and thrive.

Across the globe, major players in the technology sector view Robotics & AI as synonymous with Pennsylvania. Its world-class R&D institutions like Carnegie Mellon University – combined with an environment rich in venture capital and private equity opportunities, a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, an affordable cost of living, and a vibrant culture – make Pennsylvania the best choice for new or existing robotics and AI companies.

Pennsylvania’s strengths in robotics and AI extend beyond just one specialized subsector. The next big innovations in autonomous vehicles, space exploration, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, and so much more are being developed here. That’s why companies from various subsectors are calling PA home, from robotic arm manufacturer RE2 Robotics, to drone developer Exyn Technologies, to space robotics company Astrobotic – and all are growing rapidly in Pennsylvania.

Over the years, Pennsylvania’s image has steadily shifted from industrial to innovative. That broader shift is encapsulated in the story of Mill 19, the former steel mill that reopened as a cutting-edge technology hub for manufacturing and R&D in 2019. Mill 19’s specialty is in AI, automation, and robotics – and that’s reflected in their tenants which include Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Institute, Catalyst Connection, and Motional Automated Vehicles.

And in recent news, in July 2023, YKK AP Technologies Lab Inc. celebrated the opening of its newly designed 7,500+ sq. ft. research and development center in Mill 19. The new center will serve as a “digital factory” that will create new innovations in robotics for the construction industry.

But the latest innovations aren’t just isolated to Pittsburgh. On the other side of the Commonwealth, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC), an aircraft manufacturer specializing in the production of helicopters, chose the Philadelphia region as the location to research and develop its PA-890 project: a hydrogen-powered electric helicopter. The PA-890 will be more efficient, safer, quieter, and cheaper to maintain than traditional fossil-fueled helicopters. It stands to revolutionize the commercial helicopter market – and it’s being created in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the strength of the workforce, one of the biggest reasons for Pennsylvania’s success in robotics and AI is its supportive ecosystem for early-stage and established tech businesses. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners, located in every region of the Commonwealth, are major players in the entrepreneurial environment thanks to the technical and financial assistance they provide. And for established tech companies looking to grow or expand, the Governor’s Action Team stands ready as a business concierge to help companies find sites, establish local connections, coordinate across government agencies, and explore incentive packages.

The technologies of tomorrow are being developed and built in Pennsylvania – and the world has taken notice.