Secretary Jay Ash of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development has announced a $3.9 million state grant to support the Defense Fabric Discovery Center (DFDC) at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. The award will promote the center’s mission of innovating advanced fibers and fabrics for defense applications.
“Massachusetts has a long history of supporting our armed forces with technological advancement,” said Ash during an event at the laboratory Dec. 20. “We lead in innovation, entrepreneurship, and research and development. This phase two award to the DFDC will help drive advanced fabrics for the defense industry. It builds on world-class partners who understand the unique requirements of defense.”
According to information provided by MIT, this award follows a $2.2 million grant announced by Massachusetts Lt. Governor Karyn Polito in May 2017 that helped launch the fall opening of the DFDC, which was established in collaboration with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC) and the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA). This latest state grant will enable an expansion of the DFDC facility and its state-of-the-art equipment. This equipment includes CAD tools, fiber draw towers, prototyping equipment and systems integration capabilities.
“We have ideas for fabrics that are embedded with small antennas for short-range communications, that can sense changes in the environment, or that can store or produce energy. We are not idea limited,” said Eric Evans, director of Lincoln Laboratory. “This new investment creates a way for the lab to stay on the edge of what’s possible.”
“What these technologies can do is empower, unburden and protect our warfighters,” said Matthew Correa, chief of the Design, Test and Analysis Branch at the U.S. Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center. “The state of Massachusetts took this opportunity to seam these communities together to put these technologies on the back of our warfighters and eventually for industry utilizations.”
The grant is part of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) launched by the Baker-Polito Administration in 2016 to help Massachusetts manufacturers adopt innovative new technologies. The M2I2 was also established to facilitate state investment in the federal Manufacturing USA program, a network of research institutes that focus on advancing innovation in manufacturing and stimulating job growth through public-private partnerships.
One such Manufacturing USA institute is AFFOA, which was funded in part by the Department of Defense under the Manufacturing Technology Program. AFFOA has established several fabric discovery centers in addition to the DFDC in its mission to revolutionize the fabric industry. The state has pledged $40 million in M2I2 grants to these AFFOA-affiliated centers in its objective to be at the forefront of this textile revolution.