Dear Members and Colleagues,
Each day we get more optimistic about the future, both in terms of the slowing of the pandemic as well as the possibilities associated with flexible hybrid electronics. We have been extremely busy, having just completed the awarding of 14 new projects under PC 6.0. This project call was one for the record books! Our goal was to increase the number of awarded projects that focus on enabling manufacturing capabilities, validate FHE reliability, and address technical gaps across multiple technology roadmaps as identified by the NextFlex Technical Working Groups. From those gaps, the working groups generated 126 potential topics for this project call! A second goal was to broaden and add diversity to the proposers themselves, providing more opportunity to NextFlex members as well as those who will become members due to being awarded a project. You will be hearing more as project Development Agreements are completed. I am very excited about the level of sophistication associated with this round of projects as they demonstrate the maturation of the flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing process as well as move us collectively toward the “product” phase and, ultimately, commercialization.
In other NextFlex news, be sure to mark your calendars for Innovation Days August 3-5, 2021. Our member advisory group is hard at work making sure that this year’s event, although still virtual, will be bigger and better than ever. We have already confirmed our Day 1 keynote: Kirsten Baldwin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering. Ms. Baldwin is very familiar with the work of NextFlex and the other institutes and will speak about how we – NextFlex and our members – are developing technology for DoD and Air Force modernization priorities. We are also developing a fantastic panel, “How Innovator Teams Accelerate Concepts to DoD Product,” which will strive to address and demystify how to rapidly transition technology for DoD requirements and how to engage with traditional and emerging DoD programs and organizations. Visit nextflex.us or see the newsletter for more information about Innovation Days. I hope you will join us.
Finally, as the academic year draws to a close, I want to give a shout out to our Workforce Development team and the community colleges and high schools around the country with whom we worked to have another impactful year with FlexFactor® despite the pandemic. As we celebrate 5 years of FlexFactor, it is astonishing to think that almost 7,000 students across the country have participated since the program’s inception in 2016! Finally, congratulations to all the students who participated this year, which is even more noteworthy given the frustrations of distance learning. The level of interest, creativity, and entrepreneurship that these students demonstrated give us all faith in the future!
Malcolm J. Thompson, Ph.D.