US funds new high-tech ven­ture: Flex­i­ble, stretchy sen­sors

The China Post - - LIFE - BY LOLITA C. BAL­DOR

U. S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter an­nounced Fri­day that the U.S. De­fense Depart­ment is fund­ing a new ven­ture to de­velop cut­ting-edge elec­tron­ics and sen­sors that can flex and stretch and could be built into cloth­ing or the skins of ships and air­craft.

The high-tech in­vest­ment could lead to wearable health mon­i­tors that could be built into mil­i­tary uni­forms or used to as­sist the el­derly. Or it could foster thin, bend­able sen­sors that could be tucked into cracks or crevices on weapons, ships or bridges where bulky wiring could never fit. The sen­sors could tele­graph struc­tural prob­lems or trig­ger re­pair alerts.

Speak­ing to Sil­i­con Val­ley lead­ers and oth­ers at NASA’s Ames Re­search Cen­ter, Carter ac­knowl­edged the chal­lenges of im­prov­ing ties with a tech in­dus­try that is of­ten dis­trust­ful and frus­trated with the gov­ern­ment.

Be­cause the two sides have dif­fer­ent mis­sions and dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, “some­times we dis­agree. And I think that’s OK,” he said. “Ad­dress­ing dis­agree­ments through part­ner­ship is than not speak­ing at all.”

Un­der the new plan, the De­fense Depart­ment will pro­vide US$75 mil­lion and the in­dus­try, academia and lo­cal gov­ern­ment will con­trib­ute US$ 96 mil­lion over five years to a newly cre­ated high-tech in­no­va­tion in­sti­tute.

The con­sor­tium, called the Flex­i­ble Hy­brid Elec­tronic In­sti­tute, will be led by Cal­i­for­ni­abased FlexTech Al­liance and be made up of 162 com­pa­nies, univer­si­ties and other groups in­clud­ing Ap­ple, United Tech­nolo­gies and Hewlett Packard.


This is Carter’s sec­ond trip to the Sil­i­con Val­ley tech­nol­ogy hub in four months. In April, he launched a new pro­gram called De­fense In­no­va­tion Unit-Ex­per­i­men­tal aimed at scout­ing out promis­ing emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and im­prov­ing the De­fense Depart­ment’s abil­ity to work with high-tech firms.

This pro­ject is the sev­enth such pri­vate-public part­ner­ship to be an­nounced by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Six are led by the De­fense Depart­ment, and this one will be man­aged by the Air Force Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory.

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