Governor Charlie Baker, leaders from UMass Lowell, national manufacturing institutes and the Massachusetts advanced manufacturing community attended the opening in July of the Fabric Discovery Center at UMass Lowell. The center is an R&D facility designed to drive innovation in textile research and provide a foundation for collaboration among university researchers, students and companies. It’s also a Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) project — a $100-million state funding program launched in 2016 that invests in emerging advanced manufacturing projects.
The governor also announced $7 million in new M2I2 grants to support six additional advanced manufacturing projects located across Massachusetts. This new set of awards includes $1 million to support the new ARMada initiative, which will enhance the offerings of the Fabric Discovery Center to include robotics. This new investment will make the Fabric Discovery Center in Lowell the first center in the nation to benefit three Manufacturing Innovation Institutes in Massachusetts: the Revolutionary Fiber and Textile Manufacturing Innovation Institute, the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics and the Robotics Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
The Fabric Discovery Center is on Canal Street in Lowell, which is also home to UMass Lowell’s Innovation Hub (iHub), Medical Device Development Center and a newly opened New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center, a testbed for robotics systems used as a training center by faculty and students, but also by Massachusetts robotics companies, software developers, and manufacturers looking to test their systems. The NERVE Center will be the home for the new robotics investment from M2I2.
Under the Manufacturing USA program, Massachusetts is convening the national effort to develop revolutionary functional fibers and textiles, and participating in regional manufacturing innovation institutes in robotics, integrated photonics, flexible hybrid electronics, and biopharma manufacturing. M2I2 awards support critical research and development infrastructure in four of these sectors, working closely with each of the national manufacturing institutes, including Next Flex (flexible-hybrid electronics), AIM Photonics (integrated photonics), ARM (robotics), and Cambridge-based AFFOA (advanced functional fabrics).