Thanks to Lloyd Wood, Principal, Lloyd Wood Group, a Washington-based consultant to the U.S. textile industry for alerting Agathon Associates to the exciting new initiative at the Department of Defense.
Today the U.S. Government announced its intent to seek competition for the ninth Institute for Manufacturing Innovation ("IMI") as part of the Administration's National Network for Manufacturing Innovation ("NNMI") initiative. It is the sixth IMI to be led by the Department of Defense ("DOD"). Of the eight Institutes previously announced by the President of the United States, five are led by DOD and three are led by the Department of Energy ("DOE"). The DOD is leading IMIs focused on the following technology areas:
(1) additive manufacturing ("America Makes");
(2) lightweight and modern metals (Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow ("LIFT"));
(3) digital manufacturing and design;
(4) integrated photonics; and
(5) flexible hybrid electronics.
The DOE is similarly leading IMIs focused on the following technology areas:
(6) power electronics (Power America);
(7) advanced composites; and
(8) smart manufacturing for energy efficiency.
These Institutes are bringing together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and state organizations to accelerate innovation by investing in industrially-relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications. They are intended to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets allowing access to cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an unparalleled environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills. Each Institute will serve as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to support regional manufacturing hubs, thus ensuring that the U.S. manufacturing sector is a key pillar in an economy that is built to last.
The technical focus area for this Institute will be revolutionary fibers and textiles. The Institute will be referred to in the solicitation phase as the Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Institute for Manufacturing Innovation ("RFT-IMI").
Advances in fiber science have created fibers with extraordinary properties. Exceptional strength, flame resistance, electrical and other novel properties have revolutionized the fibers and textiles application space - hence the use of the term 'revolutionary.' Revolutionary fibers and textiles are a fast growing segment in the overall fiber and textile marketplace with a wide range of commercial and defense applications. They cover a range of fiber systems that are often known as technical textiles, composed of specialty fabrics, industrial fabrics, e-textiles, and advanced textiles. The core characteristic of technical textiles is that they are built upon a foundation of predominantly synthetic fibers and/or multi-material fibers.
These revolutionary textiles keep the warfighter protected, unburdened and empowered across the spectrum of operations through the development of, but not limited to, the following:
(1) uniforms and load-bearing equipment with protective ballistic/stab puncture capabilities and environmental/physical trauma mitigation;
(2) air, land and sea transportation for personnel and cargo;
(3) air, land and sea precision delivery systems;
(4) novel structures for turbine and rotor hubs;
(5) protective shelters;
(6) energy harvesting equipment; and
(7) a variety of other smart textile (integrated electronics) products.
Additionally commercial applications include, but may not be limited to:
(1) protections against biological, environmental and chemical agents (e.g. Ebola barrier suits);
(2) sensor-enabled textiles that can monitor health of athletes and fitness enthusiasts by monitoring heart rate, oxygen content, etc.;
(3) construction, geosynthetic applications and durable textiles that can reinforce roads, bridges, dams and prevent soil erosion;
(4) glass and carbon fiber applications in wind power, aviation and space travel;
(5) enabling wearable technology and
(6) sports equipment including flying, sailing, climbing, angling, cycling, winter and summer sports.
Advances in processes like weaving, knitting, and braiding for novel synthetic fibers can enable numerous applications in the composites, wearable electronics and Internet of things ("IOT") markets. Innovations in modelling, simulation, verification and validation through the RFT-IMI can create additional synergies in multiple markets.
The RFT-IMI will serve as a public-private partnership between government, academia and industry to address the spectrum of manufacturing challenges associated with this technology, from design to end products. It is envisioned to support an end-to-end innovation 'ecosystem' in the U.S. for revolutionary fibers and textiles manufacturing and leverage domestic manufacturing facilities to develop and scale-up manufacturing processes. The RFT-IMI will provide innovative system demonstrations based on robust design and simulation tools, pilot production facilities, a roster of subject matter experts, suppliers, and workforce development opportunities through targeted training and curriculum programs. The RFT-IMI will be structured to allow government, industry and academia to collaborate together on pre-competitive research, development, and demonstration with the goal of enhancing the currently fragmented U.S. textile manufacturing capabilities and better position the U.S. relative to global competition. The RFT-IMI will also enable universities, industry and government to participate in and benefit from the resulting manufacturing advances. The RFT-IMI will be structured to address both commercial and DOD applications with a focus on maturing technology from Manufacturing Readiness Level ("MRL") 4 to 7. The RFT-IMI will be expected to become self-sustaining after completion of the five year cooperative agreement.
AWARD INFORMATION: The U.S. Government intends to enter into a five year cooperative agreement and provide federal funding of $75 million that is to be matched or exceeded by funding from private industry and other non-federal sources (minimum 1:1 cost share). A solicitation is expected to be released in mid-April 2015 with a Proposer's Day to follow shortly thereafter (exact date and location will be announced later). The Proposer's Day will be for informational purposes only, and attendance is not a prerequisite for submitting a proposal.
INQUIRIES: All questions may be directed via email using the title quote mark NOI RFT-IMI Questions quote mark in the subject line to:
All questions received and answers will be posted on manufacturing.gov.