Consider this as the weave of the future. A U.S. public-private consortium receives $317 million of funding to develop advanced functional fibers – textiles and fabrics that can see, monitor a person's health, and do so much more than protect one's body from cold and heat.
To learn more about this exciting new partnership, here are the ins and outs:
It's a huge consortium.
The consortium called Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Alliance (AFFAA) is composed of 72 manufacturing groups like Bose, Intel and DuPont, 26 startup incubators, 32 universities and 62 subject matter experts, as well as 27 states. Puerto Rico is also part of the partnership.
Leading it is the functional fiber institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Funding is a team effort.
AFFOA obtained the funding by winning a national competition. However, only $75 million of the total $317 million will come directly from the federal government. The others will be put up by other key partners and local governments. Further, the initial funding is expected to be used within the next five years mainly to perform research, train and educate relevant stakeholders.
"It is designed to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles." said MIT.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has a stake on the massive research.
While the department has no desire to compete with Vera Wang, innovation in fabrics and textiles can also be an advantage for them as far as "troop clothing" is concerned. If this technology can be incorporated into textiles, it may already be possible for soldiers, for example, to wear clothing that is sensitive to ambient and internal body heat temperature, has the ability to communicate, is capable of storing energy, monitors health and becomes more aware of the surroundings since it can "see and hear."
Nevertheless, this partnership is equally helpful for civilians as it can produce highly skilled workforce that "will collaborate to unlock new advances in ... medical care, wearable technology, and fashion," said Karyn Polito, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts State, which is also part of the consortium.
The consortium makes creating advanced functional fibers more practical.
Different universities, researchers and scientists have been working on creating highly functional fibers, such as solar-powered fabric. However, they are met with many challenges including a "capable manufacturing network" or companies and groups that can really produce these fabrics. The consortium therefore serves as a link of research and textile manufacturing.