The Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, recently announced a new manufacturing initiative to bring textile manufacturing back to the USA. As part of that initiative the government will be investing $2 Billion in research and development to be done through a partnership of 89 manufacturers, universities and non-profit organizations all of which will be spearheaded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The goal of this project being to re-establish the United States as a leader in revolutionary fibers and textiles manufacturing.
This research will be coordinated at the new Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Cambridge, MA. The days of basic fibers and textiles are way behind us with these new products being designed to contain electronic sensors, be extremely lightweight, or resistant to even the highest temperatures. Some of the intended uses for these new textiles, according to Ash Carter, are having a textile that can detect when a soldier is wounded and needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage, or having the sensing capabilities of a smart watch built right into the lightweight fabric. The protection these fibers and textiles could offer to our armed forces, firefighters and police would be invaluable. One great example is the record numbers of forest fires we saw last year. Having uniforms that could protect from even the hottest temperatures would certainly be a benefit.
Although the American textile industry had seen steady declines for years the innovation of new products brought growth of about 14% from 2009 to 2015 and a 39% increase in exports. This caught the attention of the Obama administration and made this industry an area worth investing in. The ultimate goal being not only these incredible new products but also an increase in new manufacturing jobs. The intellectual properties of these new fabrics mean jobs will be available at all levels of these companies, many of which should end up staying in the New England area.