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AFFOA’s Advanced Fabric Revolution Could Mean Rebirth of Lowell Textile Industry: Lowell-Based Fabric Discovery Center Receives $10 Million

May 31, 2017

Lowell – May 31, 2017 – Today, Governor Charlie Baker, along with University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Yoel Fink, and Executive Director of NextFlex Malcolm Thompson, announced a $10 million grant from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) for the creation of a UMass Lowell-based Fabric Discovery Center that will provide end-to-end prototyping, start-up incubation space and workforce development activities in the field of advanced fabrics.

This news comes on the heels of AFFOA celebrating an important milestone last week as Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced a $2.2 million grant for a Defense Fabric Discovery Center located at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in partnership with US Army Natick Soldier Research and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Bringing together AFFOA and NextFlex, both part of the Manufacturing USA, with UMass Lowell to create this Fabric Discovery Center, or FDC, is the first of its kind collaboration in the nation.

“The Lowell Fabric Discovery Center represents a first step in implementing AFFOA’s nationwide strategy of centers designed to encourage entrepreneurship in advanced fabrics,” said Yoel Fink AFFOA CEO. “We are particularly excited to work hand-in-hand with UMass Lowell and local manufacturers, educational institutions and state governments to facilitate the creation of these centers which will serve to accelerate startups, provide workforce development and house advanced fabric prototyping facilities. We are particularly grateful to the Governor and State Legislators for delivering on this significant commitment to manufacturing and product innovation.”

“NextFlex congratulates UMass Lowell and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the launch of the Fabric Discovery Center. We enthusiastically support this innovation and look forward to partnering on the development of manufacturing processes for integrating Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) into textiles,” said Malcolm J. Thompson, Executive Director of NextFlex. “The opportunity to work together marks an important milestone in the advancement of FHE and ‘smart fabrics,’ and the State and Nation will all benefit greatly from this collaboration.  We are excited to bring our technology to the table with U Mass Lowell who has been a great supporter of NextFlex and to help increase Economic Development in Massachusetts.”

The FDCs are also being created as part of the Department of Defense’s effort to secure U.S. leadership in revolutionary fibers and textiles manufacturing and are part of the national landscape of Manufacturing USA to promote global competitiveness in manufacturing across a spectrum of economic sectors.

Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) is a non-profit; its mission is to enable a domestic manufacturing-based revolution by transforming traditional fibers, yarns, and fabrics into highly sophisticated, integrated and networked devices and systems. AFFOA leads the convergence of advanced technology into fiber and textile production to commercialize fabric products that deliver value-added services to the user. Through AFFOA’s activities fabrics that see, hear, sense, communicate, store and convert energy, regulate temperature, monitor health and change color will soon be possible to benefit the consumer and warfighter. AFFOA, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a public/private partnership, the 6th DoD manufacturing innovation institute and a member of the Manufacturing USA network. For more information visit AFFOA.ORG or tweet @AFFOA_RFT

About NextFlex
NextFlex is a leading force in the Manufacturing USA network of Institutes. Formed in 2015 through a cooperative agreement between the US Department of Defense (DoD) and FlexTech Alliance, NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, non-profits and state, local and federal governments with a shared goal of advancing U.S. manufacturing of FHE. Since its formation, NextFlex’s elite team of thought leaders, educators, problem solvers, and manufacturers have come together to collectively facilitate innovation, narrow the manufacturing workforce gap, and promote sustainable manufacturing ecosystems. For more information, visit and follow NextFlex on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.


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