Pentagon plans new $240m tech hub in Silicon Valley

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter holds a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Aug 20, 2015.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter holds a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Aug 20, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • The Pentagon is building a tech hub in Silicon Valley to help create new kinds of flexible technology that can be used both on the battlefield and for civilian health, smart homes and cities.

A plan unveiled called for a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute - the seventh of nine such institutes planned by the Obama administration in an effort to revitalise the American manufacturing base - to be based in San Jose, California.

According to the White House, the project seeks to foster "American leadership in manufacturing technologies from smart bandages to self-monitoring weapons systems to wearable devices".

Defence Secretary Ashton Carter on Friday announced the US$171 million (S$241 million) funding for the institute would go to the FlexTech Alliance, a consortium of 162 companies, universities and other groups, from Boeing, Apple and Harvard to Advantest Akron Polymer Systems and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

The group will work to advance the development and manufacture of so-called flexible hybrid electronics, which can be embedded with sensors and stretched, twisted and bent to fit aircraft or other platforms where they will be used.

"Flexible hybrid electronics have the power to unleash wearable devices to improve medical health monitoring and personal fitness; soft robotics to care for the elderly or assist wounded soldiers; and lightweight sensors embedded into the very trellises and fibres of roads, bridges and other structures across the globe," the White House said in a statement.

Defence officials say the rapid development of new technologies around the globe is forcing the Pentagon to seek partnerships with the private sector rather than develop most of its technology itself, as it once did.

"I've been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country," Mr Carter said.

The Pentagon established its first institute in 2012 to help advance the development of 3-D printing.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Pentagon plans new $240m tech hub in Silicon Valley'. Print Edition | Subscribe