WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is building a shared tech hub for Silicon Valley firms and military contractors to create wearable devices such as powered suits with lightweight sensors for the supersoldiers of the future.
A plan unveiled Friday called for a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute to be based in San Jose, Calif., to work on new kinds of flexible technology that can be used both on the battlefield or for civilian health, smart homes and cities.
According to the White House, the project seeks to foster "American leadership in manufacturing technologies from smart bandages to self-monitoring weapons systems to wearable devices."
It brings together the electronics industry and the high-precision printing industry in a "FlexTech Alliance" to create sensors that conform to the curves of a human body or stretch across an object or structure.
The $171 million plan announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will get $75 million in federal funds, and bring together electronics and semiconductor companies like Applied Materials (IW 500/122), Apple (IW 500/3), United Technologies (IW 500/19), Hewlett-Packard (IW 500/9), and Qualcomm (IW 500/44) with users of the technology such as Boeing (IW 500/12), General Motors (IW 500/5), the Cleveland Clinic, Corning (IW 500/114) and Motorola.
"Flexible hybrid electronics have the power to unleash wearable devices to improve medical health monitoring and personal fitness; soft robotics to care for the elderly or assist wounded soldiers; and lightweight sensors embedded into the very trellises and fibers of roads, bridges, and other structures across the globe," the statement said.
A separate Pentagon statement said these technologies "promise dual use applications in both the consumer economy and the development of military solutions for the warfighter."
The project is the latest effort by the U.S. military to overcome a rift with Silicon Valley and bring the tech sector into its efforts to innovate.
Research partners include major universities such as Stanford, University of California-Berkeley, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The FlexTech team includes more than 160 companies, nonprofits, independent research organizations and universities and will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015