The partnership, named Advanced Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA), has won a national competition for federal funding to create the latest Manufacturing Innovation Institute. It is designed to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles.
The proposal for the institute was led by Professor Yoel Fink, director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). The partnership includes 31 universities, 16 industry members, 72 manufacturing entities, and 26 startup incubators, spread across 28 states.
This is the eighth Manufacturing Innovation Institute established to date, and the first to be headquartered in New England. The headquarters will be established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in proximity to the MIT campus and the U.S. Army-funded Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology.
This unique partnership, Fink says, has the potential to create a whole new industry, based on breakthroughs in fiber materials and manufacturing. These new fibers and the fabrics made from them will have the ability to see, hear, and sense their surroundings; communicate; store and convert energy; monitor health; control temperature; and change their color.
The new initiative will receive $75 million in federal funding out of a total of $317 million though cost sharing among the Department of Defense, industrial partners, venture capitalists, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The funding will cover a five-year period and will be administered through a new, independent, nonprofit organization set up for the purpose. The partnership, which will focus on both developing new technologies and training the workforce needed to operate and maintain these production systems, also includes a network of community colleges and professional development institutes.
UC Davis is the only California based university to be included in the partnership. Lead by faculty in the division of Textiles and Clothing including professors You-Lo Hsieh, Ning Pan and Gang Sun, the UC Davis team will provide expertise in areas such as functional fibers, nanomaterials, sustainable materials systems and wearable technologies. The interdisciplinary effort includes faculty from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Letters and Science and School of Medicine. Just last year, UC Davis was selected to be a partner in another national new manufacturing institute for photonics.
Promoting leadership in manufacturing
The federal selection process for the new institute was administered by the Department of Defense through the U.S. Army’s ManTech Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the Army Contracting Command in New Jersey. Retired Gen. Paul J. Kern will serve as chairman of the institute.
As explained in the original call for proposals to create this institute, the aim is to ensure “that America leads in the manufacturing of new products from leading edge innovations in fiber science, commercializing fibers and textiles with extraordinary properties. Known as technical textiles, these modern day fabrics and fibers boast novel properties ranging from being incredibly lightweight and flame resistant, to having exceptional strength. Technical textiles have wide-ranging applications, from advancing capabilities of protective gear allowing fire fighters to battle the hottest flames, to ensuring that a wounded soldier is effectively treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage and returned safely.”
For more information:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Release
UC Davis Textiles and Clothing Program
Professor You-Lo Hsieh, firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-752-0843