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Flexible hybrid electronics innovation hub coming to San Jose

Silicon Valley-based manufacturing institute will invest $171-million in advancing next-generation flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing


The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded FlexTech Alliance a Cooperative Agreement to establish and manage a Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) for Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE MII). The award is for $75 million in federal funding over a five-year period and is being matched by more than $96 million in cost sharing from non-federal sources, including the City of San Jose, private companies, universities, several U.S. states, and not-for-profit organizations. FlexTech Alliance’s winning proposal results in the first of seven MIIs to be headquartered on the West Coast. The DoD’s Manufacturing Technology Program Office (ManTech) oversees the MIIs.

FlexTech Alliance, a research consortium and trade association, successfully proposed a San Jose-based hub and node approach to create the FHE MII, which comprises 96 companies, 11 laboratories and non-profits, 42 universities, and 14 state and regional organizations. This broad-based support underscores the market potential for flexible hybrid electronics, and reaffirms Silicon Valley’s role as an essential hub for innovation.

The Institute’s activities will benefit a wide array of markets beyond defense, including automotive, communications, consumer electronics, medical devices, health care, transportation and logistics, and agriculture. While the Institute will be headquartered in San Jose, existing nodes around the country already have in place an infrastructure ready to solve some of the known manufacturing challenges. The Institute will distribute R&D funds via competitively-bid project calls. Industry-generated technology roadmaps will drive project calls, timelines and investments.

Additionally, education and training in FHE manufacturing will be emphasized in order to expand the available workforce. A “Flex School” concept will be developed through partnerships with community colleges, teaching and research universities, trade associations, and professional societies.

Michael Ciesinski, president and CEO of FlexTech Alliance, said, “FlexTech is privileged to accept this award from the Defense Department to stand up and lead the FHE MII. Our partners collaborated on a superb proposal that links a national hub in San Jose to a network of centers of excellence throughout the U.S. We are excited by the FHE manufacturing challenge and eager to get operations underway.”

Flexible hybrid electronics, an emerging manufacturing capability, enables the integration of thin silicon electronic devices, sensing elements, communications, and power on non-traditional flexible substrates. FHE has the potential to re-shape entire industries, from the electronic wearable devices market, to medical health monitoring systems, to the ubiquitous sensing of the world around us – also known as the Internet of Things. To be successful, the Institute will need to engage aspects of the integrated circuit (IC) industry, the graphics printing industry, and the electronic assembly/packaging industry.

The new institute is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program (NNMI). The FHE MII is the seventh MII announced—the fifth under DOD management. The NNMI program is an initiative of the Obama Administration to support advanced manufacturing in the U.S. Each institute is part of a growing network dedicated to securing U.S. leadership in the emerging technologies required to win the next generation of advanced manufacturing. Bridging the gap between applied research and large-scale product manufacturing, the institutes bring together companies, universities, other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that benefit the nation’s commercial and national defense interests.

“The intent of the MII is to draw in the country’s ‘best of the best’ scientists, engineers, manufacturing experts and business development professionals in the field of flexible hybrid electronics,” stated Dr. Malcolm Thompson, Executive Director-designate of the Institute. Under the FlexTech proposal, the Hub provides overall program direction, is the integrator of components, creates prototypes, and matures manufacturing readiness levels (MRLs). “Fast start” projects for equipment, materials, devices and other vital components will make use of existing node facilities and key personnel from around the country.

Manufacturing provides well-paying job opportunities at a range of educational levels in occupations spanning engineering, production, logistics and sales. Commenting on the Institute’s local impact, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo noted, “San Jose ranks number one in the nation for Advanced Technology Industries, and is in the top two for Advanced Manufacturing. Here in Silicon Valley, our extensive advanced manufacturing capability is essential for new product innovation across a range of growth areas—including wearable electronics, medical devices, connected vehicles, and clean tech. The Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics will accelerate growth of companies and good jobs in San Jose. This decision affirms San Jose’s role as global hub for innovation advancing the Internet of Things.”

To complement the San Jose hub, key technology nodes will be linked and include IC thinning, system design and fabrication, integration and assembly, and FHE applications. Several regional nodes have been recognized and more are expected. Those currently aligned to the institute are centers and educational institutions throughout California, along with Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas.

Congressman Mike Honda said, “Congratulations to the FlexTech team and Silicon Valley for being selected as the latest Manufacturing Innovation Institute. As the epicenter of American innovation, Silicon Valley is uniquely poised to be the leader in advanced manufacturing. Headquartering this Flexible Hybrid Electronics hub in San Jose ensures that the best of Silicon Valley’s tremendous academic, commercial, industrial, public, and labor resources are available to bridge the technology transfer gap and develop this emerging, game-changing technology as it reshapes the electronics industry and brings good-paying, middle-class manufacturing jobs to the Bay Area.”

In response to the emerging call for flexible hybrid electronics across myriad industries, including military, medical, transportation, consumer electronics, wearables and beyond, the FlexTech Alliance, together with the DoD Manufacturing Technology Program Office (ManTech), other government organizations, companies, academia and non-profits, have created the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute.

FlexTech Alliance is a leading industry association focused on growth, profitability, and success throughout the manufacturing and distribution chain of flexible, printed electronics, and displays.