Late last year, the NextFlex Massachusetts Node kicked off a series of webinars to introduce the Node to the FHE community in Massachusetts and across the U.S.
More than 40 entities participated in the first event to listen to Technology Director Scott Miller introduce the NextFlex Manufacturing Institute and to hear from Farhad Vazehgoo, director of Advanced Technology Programs at the Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, about plans for the Massachusetts Node.
The webinar series will continue in 2021 to showcase FHE capabilities and technologies supported by academic institutions and FHE businesses in Massachusetts.
The Node’s mission is to facilitate and coordinate teams to propel innovation in flexible-hybrid electronics (FHEs) in Massachusetts, and to accelerate the commercialization and manufacturing of FHEs in the United States. Specific objectives include:
Develop and maintain a strategic vision specific to the Massachusetts FHE ecosystem;
Reinforce the national NextFlex mission;
Promote collaboration among all Massachusetts NextFlex members to fast-track FHE design, development;
Anchor a regional mechanism for workforce development;
Complement and improve connectivity to the NextFlex Technology Hub in San Jose.
The Node focuses on Medical Devices, Aerospace, Secure Electronics for FHE, Communication, and Energy Storage/Batteries with opportunities for funding projects through the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2). M2I2 has committed $20 million to projects aligned with NextFlex institute, with over $15 million funding to date.
Securing a trained manufacturing workforce continues to be a challenge for businesses. In 2020 Massachusetts was awarded $3.2 million by the U.S. Department of Defense to design and implement a technician training program known as “MassBridge” to meet the talent needs of the Manufacturing USA Institutes and can be deployed nationally.
This effort will design and develop a curriculum bridge that spans the observed gaps between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ current, state-wide advanced manufacturing programs, and the needs of the Manufacturing USA Institutes.
The curriculum will be deployed through vocational programs, high schools, community colleges, and supporting universities, with specific connectivity that pulls students towards careers in Manufacturing USA technologies.
This model will also integrate a re-branding, re-naming, marketing and recruiting campaign for advanced manufacturing careers, taking advantage of the natural appeal of the Manufacturing USA vision and technologies to prospective trainees.
The deliverable is a state-wide integrated program, developed in three phases from prototyping to state-wide deployment, which will provide a stackable pathway from existing technician training programs to technician skills required by Manufacturing USA technologies, all of which can then be duplicated as a national model.
Massachusetts has significant strengths in the area of both broad-based manufacturing technician training and Manufacturing USA education and workforce development and is an ideal choice to take on this project.
The Bridge will be led by the MassTech Collaborative, a state agency of Massachusetts, in close partnership with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED).
The partnering organizations that will form the implementation working teams will include MassTech, EOHED, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education (EOE), the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), MIT AIM Academy, MIT Office of Open Learning (MIT OOL), MassHire (Massachusetts Workforce Development Boards), the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP), and select Massachusetts community colleges, vocational-technical high schools, and state universities.
For both scale and diversity, The Bridge proposes to work with multiple Manufacturing USA Institutes headquartered across the nation; initially NextFlex, AFFOA, AIM Photonics, ARM, America Makes, and LIFT.