Our research will generate and analyze the first dataset of robot use and development in the United States. While there has been significant discussion of the wide-ranging impacts robotics will have on society and the economy, to date, it has been speculative and supported by little evidence.
What are we doing?
Our previous work identified and characterized the U.S. robotics industry. By identifying regional factors that lead to innovations in robotics technologies and that influence local firms’ decisions to use robots, we equip local policymakers with knowledge to foster competitive and resilient places in the context of rapid technological change.
Our current research falls into three categories:
Through two surveys, we are creating the first census of the industrial robot industry in the United States. The resulting evidence and data is essential for moving analysis beyond anecdotal discussion. The surveys are anonymous and all respondents receive access to the findings through an online dashboard.
- Manufacturer Survey: Our national survey of manufacturing enterprises specifically asks about robot use. We are surveying approximately 8,000 enterprises about their use of robotics (or lack thereof) and associated employment patterns.
- Systems Integrator Survey: Robotics systems integrators are engineering firms that design, install, and maintain industrial robotics system. They play an important role in the growing use of robotics in U.S. manufacturing, but little else is known about them or the work that they do. Their input is essential for creating appropriate robot-related policies and strategies.
Workforce and Skill Analysis
We are analyzing novel labor market data that enables an assessment of robot-related employment supply and demand. Because standard industrial and occupational classifications do not separate robotics employment from other similar labor categories, analyses of robots’ impact on the workforce has previously not been possible.
We are conducting a cross-case comparison of two “robotic regions” that have significant robotics-related employment. These case studies will include interviews of stakeholders from all stages of the robotic supply chain. They will provide insight on robotics firm networks and how both inter- and intra-regional links influence the growing use of robotics and its attendant economic effects. (Read about one case study we have completed.)
Why is this important?
This research will enable policymakers, workers, and corporate leaders to make more informed decisions about the use of robots in the economy. It will provide insight on evolving employment structures, the changing nature of work, firm strategies, and regional economic evolution as robots become more common.
Our work is funded by the National Science Foundation, through a National Robotics Initiative Grant, “Workers, Firms, and Industries in Robotic Regions.”