New innovation hub, public-private collaboration to focus on apps, wearables

The Obama administration will award a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics to a consortium of 162 companies, universities and non-profits led by the FlexTech Alliance, according to an announcement from the Department of Defense.

The announcement follows a nationwide bid process for the seventh of nine such manufacturing institutes launched by the administration, and the fifth of six manufacturing institutes led by the Department of Defense. Part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation announced by President Obama in 2012, this newest institute will bring the best minds from government, industry and academia together to advance U.S. leadership in manufacturing flexible hybrid electronics, according to a release.

The emerging flexible hybrid electronics sector aims to revolutionize the electronics industry, and the Silicon Valley-based FlexTech Alliance consortium, backed by organizations such as Apple, Lockheed Martin, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, continues the public-private partnerships between the Pentagon and tech community.         

The FlexTech team includes more than 160 companies, nonprofits, independent research organizations and universities. The cooperative agreement will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research laboratory and will receive $75 million in DoD funding over five years matched with more than $90 million from industry, academia and local governments. In total, the institute will receive $171 million to invest in strengthening U.S. manufacturing.

Flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing describes the innovative production of electronics and sensors packaging through new techniques in electronic device handling and high precision printing on flexible, stretchable substrates. The potential array of products range from wearable devices to improved medical health monitoring technologies, and will increase the variety and capability of sensors. The technologies promise dual use applications in both the consumer economy and the development of military solutions for the warfighter.