Robotics engineering company Adept Technology Inc. played host to Congressman Jerry McNerney this week in the hopes that he will help the firm obtain federal stimulus funds for research and development.
Adept managers, who recently moved their headquarters operations from Livermore to Inglewood Drive in Pleasanton, took McNerney, who was home for district week along with the rest of Congress, on a tour showing him the many machines they develop and the array of tasks they perform. These range from packaging chocolates to performing medical procedures to installing solar panels.
The Silicon Valley startup posted sales of $50 million last year, according to CEO John Dulchinos, but global competition in their field has led to an unfair advantage. The economic downtown has also affected business, and sales are likely to be lower this year, he said.
Dulchinos said the federal government needs to help companies such as Adept become competitive against companies in Eastern Europe, such as Germany, which have a stronghold on robotics technology. Competition lies in the outsourcing of low-cost labor and foreign countries whose governments subsidize their operations.
Incentives are needed for U.S. manufacturers to invest and produce domestically and federal funding would go toward the research and development of technology that would further automate solar technology, Dulchinos said.
This could reduce the cost to produce solar panels for capturing solar energy, as well as safety technology, which would give the U.S. a leg up on competitors, he added.
Adept has 135 employees on its payroll, but Dulchinos said he estimates that $10 million in investment from the government could bring roughly 100 more jobs to the Pleasanton area and generate $10 million to $15 million per year in revenue.
"Robotics is on the cusp of something big, like PCs were in the 1970s," Dulchinos said, referencing comments he said Microsoft founder Bill Gates has made.
"I think the Silicon Valley is going to be recreated into a clean technology region," he added. "Europe's got a head start, but I think there's opportunity. We're still in the infancy of it."
Though Europe and Japan have excelled in the techology, Dulchinos said American robotics companies can leap-frog them to develop technology that would make machines safer, which is one flaw of employing machines versus humans. But the benefits of machines far outweigh using manual labor, such as ensuring a safe food supply, protecting workers from hazards, lowering the cost of alternative energy and creating high-paying skilled jobs, Dulchinos said.
McNerney, who has a background in wind engineering and renewable energy, said he understands Adept's plight and said he would work with the the company on applying for funding under President Barack Obama's $787-billion stimulus package.