Designed to foster innovation and accelerate advanced manufacturing in the US, new public-private consortiums are working towards creating a sustainable manufacturing innovation ecosystem. Known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MIIs), each partnership has a unique manufacturing technology focus.
MIT currently participates in four of the eight existing MIIs. Notably, MIT convened the newest of these MIIs, named the Advanced Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA) Institute, which will be headquartered near MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT professor Yoel Fink PhD ’00 will direct this new Institute as a $317 million partnership with the US Department of Defense and a nationwide consortium of academic, industry, and nonprofit partners. The AFFOA Institute includes a new vision for a distributed foundry for functional fabric production and workforce training. Additionally, MIT leads and coordinates the education and workforce training program of AIM Photonics, called the AIM Academy, developing online/hands-on tools for photonic device manufacturing integrated with industry partners. And in NextFlex, MIT is proposing “education factories” that integrate manufacturing training for flexible hybrid electronics with development of kits to inspire today’s young “makers” to make more.
This high level of engagement across manufacturing technologies and market sectors draws on MIT’s motto, “mens et manus.” “What I often say is that MIT helps leads the way in not just inventing it here, but making it here. We’re working with industry and government to develop an innovation ecosystem. We’re also teaching students that instead of making it once, we can make it many times over so that it’s useful to a broader community of people and companies,” says Krystyn Van Vliet PhD ’02, professor and director of manufacturing innovation for MIT’s Innovation Initiative.