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Verizon, Techstars Announce Separate Challenges for Robotics, Drone Startups

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November 09, 2018      

Drone startups and robotics developers looking to get some more cash or assistance with their companies have a few more opportunities coming their way. Verizon, along with Ericsson and the Mass Tech Leadership Council, announced the launch of the Verizon 5G Robotics Challenge; meanwhile the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars announced an expansion for 2019 from its original program.

The Verizon 5G Robotics Challenge is aimed at universities, startups, and other developers in the greater Boston area to “create 5G-powered robotics technologies that will transform modern industry.” UP to 10 teams will share $300,000 in grant funding ($30,000 each) to help them achieve their concepts, the companies said in a statement.

Teams can create systems in three areas – industrial automation, collaborative robots (cobots), and warehouse automation. In addition to the grant money, teams will have access to dedicated 5G networks at Verizon’s 5G Cambridge Lab and 5G Waltham Lab. Training and mentorship will be offered from Verizon and Ericsson, as well as “support teams within the local robotics community to bring their concepts to life.”

“There’s no area more prepared for positive 5G disruption than the manufacturing industry” said Thierry Sender, director of IoT Product Strategy and Technology Enablement at Verizon. “5G will deliver never before seen enhancements and improvements to all aspects of industry. The Verizon 5G Robotics Challenge will explore solutions that will deliver on that disruption.”

Proposals for the Verizon challenge will be accepted online from today through Dec. 9, 2018.

Accelerator aims high with 2019 Air Force support

For the second year of its Air Force Acclerator Powered by Techstars, the company has expanded its autonomous technology accelerator to include additional areas, a corporate sponsor, and enhancement of the free version of the SBIR program aimed at funding accelerator companies.

Warren Katz, director of the program, said the program will focus on commercially viable startups that have two purposes – private sector application as well as government application. Katz said they are looking for companies with “autonomous technology that might enable or enhance the ability to detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate unmanned systems, to include, but not limited to, sensor technology, high-performance computational hardware and software, computer vision and digital image processing, AI, multi-modal sensor integration, secure communications, trusted identification, power systems, high-performance materials, integration systems, and human machine interface.”

Companies that include immersive-training technologies, including AR/VR and adult learning methods like gamification, social delivery, and social-directed learning, will also be considered, as well as technologies that support data-enabled recruiting, training, and education. While the program is based in Boston, Katz said companies from around the world are eligible to apply.

The program is accepting applications now through Nov. 30, Katz said. The class of companies is expected to be announced in mid-January 2019, with work starting in February, ending around mid-May with a Demo Day event.