- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Pentagon is pushing Silicon Valley to bring wearables to U.S. troops by investing $75 million in a new group composed of tech giants who will strive toward achieving space-age advancements in microelectronics.

The FlexTech Alliance — made up of more than 100 companies, labs, colleges and other entities — will research cutting-edge technology such as digital components that bend at the new Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub in San Jose, California, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Friday.

“I’ve been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country,” Mr. Carter said. “Now we’re taking another step forward.”

The manufacturing hub is the seventh research center to be unveiled by the White House under a plan to open nine such institutes under the Obama administration, and the fifth of six to be led by the Pentagon.

The alliance is an arrangement of 162 entities that will oversee the facility, including representatives from various companies, laboratories, nonprofits, colleges and state organizations such as Apple, Boeing, General Motors, General Dynamics, Harvard, Xerox and Stanford.

“After a decade of decline in the 2000s, when 40 percent of all large factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010,” the Pentagon said in an announcement Friday. “Today’s announcement represents the kind of investment needed to build on this progress, broadening the foundation for American manufacturing capability and accelerating growth for years to come.”

The Pentagon has pledged $75 million to the endeavor, with another $96 million promised from non-federal sources. Those funds will go towards researching flexible hybrid electronics that could pave the way for new technological advances with respect to wearables, Mr. Carter said.

“This is an emerging technology that takes advanced flexible materials for circuits, communications, sensors and power and combines them with thinned silicon chips to ultimately produce the next generation of electronic products,” he said. “Our troops will be able to lighten their loads with sensors and electronic gear embedded in their clothing, and wounded warriors will benefit from smart prosthetics that have the full flexibility of human skin.”

According to the White House, the alliance will work to develop “an end-to-end stretchable electronics ‘ecosystem’ in the U.S.”

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