WESTBOROUGH, MASS. – The Healey-Driscoll Administration has awarded a nearly $2 million grant to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) through MassTech’s Innovation Institute to help build a cutting-edge research and development facility focused on the design, production, and understanding of autonomous systems. WPI’s new Autonomous Systems Lab will serve as a testing ground for innovative autonomous technologies that are advancing future capabilities in the automotive, transportation, healthcare, robotics, and automation and manufacturing sectors.
The grant comes from the Institute’s Technology & Innovation Ecosystem program and will help WPI build a 10,000 square foot facility where it will continue its work with the U.S. Department of Defense to collaborate with industry partners to create, train, and experiment on a range of autonomous, unmanned prototypes. The digital infrastructure in the new facility will allow for hybrid modeling and simulation, using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools.
“Massachusetts has a deep tech and innovation legacy that has made us a hub for pioneering work across so many sectors, including autonomous systems,” said Yvonne Hao, Secretary of the Executive Office of Economic Development. “This world-class facility at WPI will help create jobs for a new generation of innovators and advance our knowledge of technologies that will drive the future of mobility. We are proud to support this cutting-edge work through MassTech’s Innovation Institute.”
“Here in Massachusetts, we are committed to advancing opportunities for students, helping them gain hands-on training with cutting edge tools and entry to exciting industries built on novel technologies,” said Carolyn Kirk, Executive Director of the MassTech Collaborative. “The Autonomous Systems Lab will provide faculty, students, and Massachusetts entrepreneurs with research opportunities that will help keep the Commonwealth at the cutting-edge in this sector.”
The Lab will support new career options for recent college graduates looking to enter into the automated systems space and related tech industries. These students will benefit from engagement with project partners that include leading Massachusetts companies such as MathWorks, PTC, and Boston Engineering. The facility will be the first academically-led R&D organization investigating the feasibility and maneuverability of Unmanned Ground Vehicles that has support at the national level.
“The establishment of WPI Autonomous Systems Lab will drive groundbreaking research and innovation in autonomous off-road vehicles that could be used in agriculture, construction, national defense, and even planetary exploration,” said Grace Wang, President of WPI. “We are truly grateful that the state and MassTech Collaborative recognized the critical importance of this R&D facility that will enable new research frontiers, partnerships, and experiential learning opportunities, demonstrating that Massachusetts is once again at the forefront of advancing technologies that will transform mobility.”
“Massachusetts has long been a hub for innovation, and investments like these continue to drive our vibrant technology industry forward,” said State Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “I’m thrilled to hear that the Commonwealth is investing $2 million in WPI’s groundbreaking Autonomous Systems Lab, a grant that will advance educational opportunities for students and set the stage for the Bay State’s next world-changing innovation. Thank you to the Healey-Driscoll Administration and Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for investing in Central Massachusetts.”
“This significant investment in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute by the MassTech Collaborative reflects the Legislature’s commitment to foster economic growth and innovation in cutting-edge industries across the Commonwealth,” said State Representative John J. Mahoney. “I am thankful for the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s collaboration in recognizing Worcester as a hub to effectuate this change, and look forward to seeing how this project will benefit the greater central Massachusetts region.”
The Autonomous Systems Lab will include a central facility called the Simulator of Autonomous Maneuver, Mobility, and Energy Efficiency, or SAME2, which will provide the technical underpinning for the environment. University-wide programs will contribute to this effort by creating prototypes and building parts in VR and AR. The results of this research will be made available to academia, defense, transportation, and various advanced manufacturers. WPI’s Advanced Research Computing Center and Department of Electrical Engineering will contribute by providing support for high-performance computing and communication networks.
The investments will also support:
- The creation of a multi-access consortium, where groups will pay annually to access the lab, allowing for use by large and small for-profit companies, non-profits, academic institutions, and government organizations.
- The creation of a home for the “Future Autonomous System Requirements for Microelectronics” project, a five-year endeavor put together by the WPI Autonomous Vehicle Mobility Institute in partnership with MIT Lincoln Laboratory. When the project comes to fruition, the WPI Autonomous Systems Lab would serve as the proving ground for virtual and physical experimental tests and demonstration of the Responsible Artificial Intelligence or RAI-System-on-Chip prototype for unmanned ground vehicles.
- The acceleration of new R&D that mitigates risks typically associated with condensed production. The expected result is several new patents, companies, and entrepreneurial pursuits that will stimulate the tech and innovation economy in Massachusetts, particularly for sectors industries that rely on physics-based products.
The grant is the fourth award announced from the state’s Technology & Innovation Ecosystem Awards program, which launched last year and provides capital support for projects focused on novel, specific research in areas where Massachusetts can play a global leadership role.
About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts. The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth. Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:
- Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
- Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
- Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
- Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.
For more information, visit https://innovation.masstech.org/.