- Partnership led by MIT and funded through Department of Defense
- Accelerate innovation in manufacturing high-tech fabrics
- Smart fibers may sense surroundings, monitor health, store energy, communicate or change color
The University of California, Davis, is a partner in a new federally funded Manufacturing Innovation Institute, Advanced Functional Fibers of America, 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 the Research Laboratory of Electronics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 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. The headquarters will be established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in proximity to the MIT campus and the U.S. Army-funded Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology. UC Davis is also a partner in another national new manufacturing institute, the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics.
UC Davis is the only California-based university to be included in the partnership. Led 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 additionally includes faculty from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Letters and Science, and School of Medicine.
Promoting leadership in manufacturing
This unique partnership, Fink said, 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.
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.