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© Bryce Vickmark. All rights reserved.

© Bryce Vickmark. All rights reserved.

 

On Friday, April 1, Governor Charlie Baker was joined by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, US Senator Edward Markey, members of Congress and local educational and industrial partners to announce the nation’s first Revolutionary Fiber and Textile Manufacturing Innovation Institution. The announcement was made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which will serve as host to the $317 million venture aimed at developing cutting-edge fabrics.

Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), an independent nonprofit founded by MIT, will run the public-private partnership as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The AFFOA will work in partnership with MIT, the University of Massachusetts, Quinsigamond Community College, and fiber and textile industry partners throughout the Commonwealth.

The Baker-Polito Administration has pledged $40 million in matching funds to support capital projects at the facility, a sign of the Commonwealth’s commitment to innovation in advanced manufacturing.

“Massachusetts’s innovation ecosystem is reshaping the way that people interact with the world around them,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This manufacturing innovation institute will be the national leader in developing and commercializing textiles with extraordinary properties. It will extend our ongoing efforts to nurture emerging industries, and grow them to scale in Massachusetts to an exciting new field. And it will serve as a vital piece of innovation infrastructure, to support the development of the next generation of manufacturing technology, and the development of a highly skilled workforce.”

The fibers and textiles developed at the AFFOA Institute will serve a variety of uses, from protecting firefighters and soldiers to connecting to wearable technology.

“Fibers and fabrics are among the earliest forms of human expression, yet have changed very little over the course of history,” said Professor Yoel Fink, director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the director of AFFOA. “All this is about to change as functional fiber and yarn technologies meet traditional textile production and yield new products by design. Our Institute, with the help of significant support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and with key participation by the Natick Soldier Research Development & Engineering Center, will become the focal point of innovation in manufacturing and product, realizing the vision of advanced functional fabrics for the benefit of consumers, as well as our men and women in uniform, generating economic growth in the state and beyond. MIT was honored to convene this consortium, building on our years of fiber research and development at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology, a U.S. Army industry/university cooperative research center on the MIT campus.”

The University of Massachusetts will serve as a key partner in the innovation institute, applying the university’s technical expertise in flexible electronics and wearable technologies to advanced fibers and textiles.

Quinsigamond Community College, located in Worcester, will co-chair the AFFOA Institute’s workforce development council, to support education and training of a skilled workforce in revolutionary fiber and textile manufacturing in Massachusetts. The workforce development assets that Quinsigamond will develop will have statewide deployment capabilities.

The Massachusetts-based institutions and companies featured in the partnership include: UMass-Amherst, MassMep in Worcester, ChK Group of Worcester, Analog Devices of Norwood, Bose of Framingham, Nano Terra of Cambridge and New Balance of Boston.

This is Massachusetts’s third recent NNMI win, and the state’s first national manufacturing innovation center under NNMI. Massachusetts previously secured regional manufacturing innovation institute nodes in photonics, and in flexible hybrid electronics. UMass Amherst is leading regional research and development efforts into flexible hybrid electronics. MIT and Quinsigamond Community College are partners in the regional photonics research effort, with Quinsigamond serving as the national workforce development lead for the photonics manufacturing innovation institute.

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