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Apple, Boeing, MIT, and more partner with Pentagon to improve flexible electronics

Apple, Boeing, MIT, and more partner with Pentagon to improve flexible electronics

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A consortium of top tech companies, laboratories, and universities is partnering with the Department of Defense to improve the manufacturing of flexible electronics, which could one day end up in aircraft, health monitors, military tools, or consumer electronics like wearables. The department is awarding the consortium, known as the FlexTech Alliance, $75 million over five years, with other sources, including universities, non-profits, and state and local governments, contributing an additional $96 million.

FlexTech aims to reduce the size, weight, and cost of electronics

The consortium is composed of well over 100 organizations, with key partners including Apple, Boeing, GE, GM, Lockheed Martin, Motorola Mobility, and Qualcomm, among many others. Partnering universities include Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, NYU, and MIT, also among many others.

Funds will be distributed to FlexTech members through a bidding process, with field experts from these organizations applying to tackle specific problems. Timelines will be set for each of these, though there don't appear to be specific goals just yet.

Generally, FlexTech and the DoD want to reduce the size, weight, and cost of electronics, while making flexible electronics viable for use across disciplines. The government's grant is also meant to help establish a manufacturing network for flexible electronics across the United States.

FlexTech will create what's being called a "Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics," which will be headquartered in San Jose. It's one of many manufacturing innovation institutes that the government has been putting together to promote manufacturing and develop new technology — this one just happens to include some very high-profile partners. Regional hubs will also be spread throughout the US, primarily located near partnering universities. The partnership also hopes to increase the education around flexible electronics so that more researchers will be available to push the field forward in the future.