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Massachusetts Awards $3 Million to Northeastern University to Drive Development of Smart Sensors and Nanoscale Materials

Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced a $3 million grant to Northeastern University to establish the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials (“ANSSeM”), a consortium of private manufacturing companies and tier-one research universities working on new methods to create smart sensors and other revolutionary materials using ‘nanoscale’ printing processes.

The five-year grant award is made by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program, a program supporting large-scale, long-term research projects that have high potential to spur innovation, cluster development and job growth in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s investment will help fund new infrastructure at Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, as well as at Tufts and UMass Boston, while helping drive commercialization of new products and driving workforce and economic development activities.

“Our administration has prioritized the growth of the Commonwealth’s nationally-leading innovation economy,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through collaborative projects like the Advanced Nanomanufacturing Cluster for Smart Sensors and Materials, we are unlocking private investment and job creation in revolutionary technologies, unleashing the unmatched ingenuity of our citizens, and connecting every region in the Commonwealth to the innovation economy.”

“By partnering with academic researchers and private-sector employers, we are ensuring that the next generation of advanced manufacturing technology is developed, and deployed, in Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This consortium will connect Massachusetts employers to unique nanoscale manufacturing technology, helping to ensure the long-term competitiveness of our manufacturing sector.”

The Commonwealth’s investment will be matched by nearly $11 million in outside funds, highlighting the critical partnership between industry, academia, and public partners across Massachusetts. Proposals funded under the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program are reviewed by an investment advisory committee composed of executives from academia, industry, and the venture capital communities.

The Baker-Polito Administration’s economic development strategy prioritizes research and development in high-potential emerging technology areas. The administration’s economic development legislation, filed in January 2016, proposes an additional $25 million state capital investment into the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund, the fund which supports the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program. 

During the event at Northeastern’s Kostas Research Institute in Burlington, Massachusetts, speakers highlighted the impact that smart sensors will have on advancing connected technologies, known as the “Internet of Things,” and the impact that increased R&D in nanomaterials could have on commercial products. Potential commercial applications range from high-precision sensors used to monitor premature babies in hospital neonatal units, to devices that track water quality, to wearable devices that monitor biometric data. A 2015 study by IDTechEx in Cambridge estimated that the market for wearable sensors and electronics would grow to $64 billion over the following decade. A June 2015 study by McKinsey found that the Internet of Things will have a total potential economic impact of $3.9 to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025. 

The cluster’s corporate partners include numerous well known manufacturers with operations across the state, including Rogers Corporation, a NASDAQ-traded public corporation that has its research headquarters at the Kostas Research Institute in Burlington; General Electric; Milara, Inc. of Medway and Milford; Raytheon, based in Waltham; HC Starck of Newton; and GloTech/OptoGlo, of Leominster and Devens.

Due to their electrical, mechanical and optical properties, nanomaterials have the potential to revolutionize the sensing industry. The ANSSeM consortium will work with the Nanoscale Offset Printing System (NanoOPS), a manufacturing technology pioneered by Northeastern University’s Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN), which will be the institutional home for the ANSSeM cluster work. NanoOPS can print nanoscale sensors and devices as small as 20 nm (or more than 1,000 times thinner than a human hair) on a variety of surfaces, and can print 100 to 1,000 times faster than current inkjet-based electronic and 3D printing.

The ANSSeM initiative has five major project tasks:

  • Designing, developing and manufacturing commercial prototypes based on smart sensors and advanced materials;
  • Increasing the flexibility of the nanoscale printing technology, to enable printing on a variety of soft and hard substrates;
  • Studying advanced materials and product life cycle sustainability, to ensure compliance with federal and state regulatory agencies;
  • Improving physical infrastructure, including the purchase of instruments and equipment for materials characterization and testing of product prototypes as well as two second-generation NanoOPS; and
  • Creating commercialization programs and workforce development, such as seminars and workforce training programs to introduce and expose highly-educated individuals who are currently out of the job market to the advanced printing technology.

The Commonwealth’s award builds on a previous state grant, which awarded $2 million for the launch of Northeastern’s Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing, funds which were provided to match an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Both grants from the Commonwealth are managed by the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

“The success of the Nano OPS technology results from the extensive partnerships these researchers have built with manufacturing leaders across Massachusetts. Our continuing relationship with Northeastern University and the benefits from our earlier support are now leading breakthroughs into new fields of advanced manufacturing processes,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “The state supported research that has contributed to this breakthrough can benefit manufacturing firms from Boston, to Central Massachusetts, and even to the Berkshires, demonstrating the reach of these innovations.”

About MassTech

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is an innovative public agency working to enhance economic growth, accelerate technology use and adoption, and harness the value of research by engaging in meaningful collaborations across academia, industry, and government. From improving our health care systems and expanding high-speed internet across the state to fostering emerging industry clusters, MassTech is driving innovation and supporting a vibrant economy across the Commonwealth.

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a global, experiential research university. Our tradition of partnership and engagement creates a distinctive approach to education and research built on the values of experiential learning, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Northeastern is the recognized leader in experiential learning, powered by the world’s most innovative cooperative-education program. We offer students opportunities for professional work, research, service, and global learning in 131 countries on seven continents. The same spirit of engagement guides a use-inspired research enterprise that is strategically aligned with three global imperatives: health, security, and sustainability. Northeastern offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in nine colleges and schools, and select advanced degrees at graduate campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Toronto.   

Source: The Official Website of the Governor of Massachusetts