The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded $75 million for the establishment and management of a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) for Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE-MII) to a team led by the FlexTech Alliance, headquartered in San Jose, California, and including the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT) Center as a Founding University Partner.

The award will provide funding over a five-year period and is being matched by more than $96 million in cost sharing from non-federal sources, including private companies, universities, states and nonprofit organizations. The new institute is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program (NNMI), and the FHE-MII is the seventh MII announced — the fifth under DOD management.

While the Manufacturing Innovation Institute will be headquartered in San Jose, key nodes have been set up in strategic locations around the country that can best address technology areas like integrated circuit (IC) thinning, system design and fabrication, integration and assembly and flexible hybrid electronics applications. The Institute will distribute R&D funds via competitively bid project calls, and industry-generated technology roadmaps will ultimately drive the Institute’s projects, timelines and investments.

Through the NASCENT Center, The University of Texas at Austin is collaborating with research partners at the Georgia Institute of Technology as the university co-leads of the Design and Fabrication node.

“UT Austin is ideally positioned to bring together industry and university groups to advance the area of flexible and printed electronics,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “With the faculty, staff and facilities at NASCENT — along with faculty in the Microelectronics Research Center and across the university — we have the right mix of expertise and experience to help lead this important effort.”

An initiative of the Obama Administration, the NNMI program was created 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. Comprising several companies, laboratories and nonprofits, universities, and state and regional organizations, the FHE-MII collaborative partnership underscores the market potential for flexible hybrid electronics. 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.

Flexible hybrid electronics is an emerging family of design and manufacturing technologies that enables the integration of thin silicon, organic, and other material based electronic devices, sensing elements, communications and power on non-traditional flexible substrates. It has the potential to re-shape 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. The Institute plans to engage with aspects of the IC industry, the printed electronics industry and the electronic assembly/packaging industry.

The NASCENT Center is anchored at The University of Texas at Austin and was established in 2012 as part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Centers Program. It includes researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of New Mexico, it has 15 industrial members and it is supporting the research of over 85 faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral staff with an annual research budget of more than $4 million.

“The investment from NSF in the NASCENT Center over the last three years has enhanced our leadership position in the area of scalable nanofabrication for flexible mobile devices,” said Ananth Dodabalapur, UT Austin professor and a lead researcher in the NASCENT Center. “This has led to a synergistic collaboration with FlexTech Alliance on this FHE-MII program, allowing us to expand our technology collaborations with key partners of the new institute.”