Manufacture NY and FIT partner to bring revolutionary textile innovation to New York

Public-private Manufacturing Innovation Institute (“MII”) to be led by MIT, with national consortium of businesses, universities, agencies, including a regional NY Training Hub for Workforce Training at Manufacture New York

(Brooklyn, NY) -- An independent nonprofit founded by MIT has been selected to run a new, $317 million public-private partnership announced today by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

The partnership, named Advanced Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA), has won a national competition for federal funding to create the latest Manufacturing Innovation Institute. It is designed to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles. This is the eighth Manufacturing Innovation Institute established to date, and the first to be headquartered in the Northeast. The headquarters will be established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in proximity to the MIT campus.

For the New York region, Manufacture New York (MNY) will launch and host skills-based training and registered apprenticeships programs across the fashion textile manufacturing supply chain, including AFFOA technical project participants and drawing from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), as well as other local and national public educational institutions.

Manufacture New York CEO Bob Bland will serve as the deputy director of Apprenticeships and Internships, and in partnership with FIT, local and state government support, and inclusive outreach to all interested New York stakeholders, will establish a regional training hub for New York, committed to year-round apprenticeship and internships. “We believe the AFFOA Manufacturing Innovation Institute will effectively bridge the current supply chain gap between technology enablers and commercial products in smart fabrics; it will be instrumental in bringing technologies to market by fostering innovation in manufacturing and advanced engineering,” said Bob Bland.

“FIT, as a college of the State University of New York, is delighted to be part of this exciting public-private collaboration and to have the opportunity to share the special expertise that exists among our faculty of industry professionals,” said FIT president, Dr. Joyce F. Brown. “We are committed to using our expertise in the areas of textiles from the design process through production, and look forward to supporting AFFOA and Manufacture NY in this innovative and exciting partnership.”

After the stand-up period of the AFFOA institute, at least 30 paid apprenticeships and internships will be offered per year with six-month cycles, and the goal for graduates of the program to enter the local workforce. Ultimately, programs piloted through AFFOA will be implemented nationally through the institute’s inclusive network of partners.

“Sunset Park is the new headquarters of apparel manufacturing”, said Carlo Scissura, CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Brooklyn is always on the cutting edge, so this is the perfect location for this institute, which will develop the innovative textile and fabric technologies of the future and train our workforce to manufacture them."

Manufacture New York joins the nationwide collaborative infrastructure, the Fabric Innovation Network (FIN), consisting of small and medium domestic manufacturers (“SMEs”), large corporations, academic labs and NPO’s across over twenty states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that have committed unique and dedicated capacity in support of AFFOA projects.

“I’m proud to see Manufacture New York receive funding as part of this grant announcement. This is a tremendous example of how the federal government, state government and industry can partner together to foster economic opportunity and innovation, right here, in our community, said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “By creating apprenticeship opportunities and internships, this initiative will help young people land new jobs and pursue rewarding careers.” 

Manufacture New York will offer access to shared pattern tables, digital patternmaking, automated cutting, screen printing, digital textile printing, full fashion knitting and sewing production equipment for sampling, development and production of approved AFFOA projects.

‎"Due to our unmatched talent, creativity and international influence, New York City is at the center of the fashion universe," said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer. "The apprenticeships, internships and skills-based training provided by these valuable partnerships will ensure that talented New Yorkers in our fashion industry remain at the cutting edge of industry innovation and emerging technologies."

The proposal for the Manufacturing Innovation Institute was led by Professor Yoel Fink, director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). The partnership includes 31 universities, 16 industry members, 72 manufacturing entities, and 26 startup incubators, spread across 28 states.

This unique partnership, Fink says, has the potential to create a whole new industry, based on breakthroughs in fiber materials and manufacturing. These new fibers and the fabrics made from them will have the ability to see, hear, and sense their surroundings; communicate; store and convert energy; monitor health; control temperature; and change their color.

The new initiative will receive $75 million in federal funding out of a total of $317 million though cost sharing among the Department of Defense, industrial partners, venture capitalists, and state government funding. The funding will cover a five-year period and will be administered through the new, independent, nonprofit organization set up for the purpose. The partnership, which will focus on both developing new technologies and training the workforce needed to operate and maintain these production systems, also includes a network of community colleges and professional development institutes.


A new age of fabrics

For thousands of years, humans have used fabrics in much the same way, to provide basic warmth and aesthetics. Clothing represents “one of the most ancient forms of human expression,” Fink says, but one that is now, for the first time, poised to undergo a profound transformation — the dawn of a “fabric revolution.”

“What makes this point in time different? The answer is research,” Fink says: Objects that serve many complex functions are always made of multiple materials, whereas single-material objects, such as a drinking glass, usually have just a single, simple function. But now, new technology — some of it developed in Fink’s own laboratory — is changing all that, making it possible to integrate many materials and complex functional structures into a fabric’s very fibers, and to create fiber-based devices and functional fabric systems.

The semiconductor industry has shown how to combine millions of transistors into an integrated circuit that functions as a system; as described by “Moore’s law,” the number of devices and functions has doubled in computer chips every couple of years. Fink says the team envisions that the number of functions in a fiber will grow with similar speed, paving the way for highly functional fabrics.

The challenge now is to execute this vision, Fink says. While many textile and apparel companies and universities have figured out pieces of this puzzle, no single one has figured it all out.

“It turns out there is no company or university in the world that knows how to do all of this,” Fink says. “Instead of creating a single brick-and-mortar center, we set out to assemble and organize companies and universities that have manufacturing and ‘making’ capabilities into a network — a ‘distributed foundry’ capable of addressing the manufacturing challenges. To date, 72 manufacturing entities have signed up to be part of our network.”

“With a capable manufacturing network in place,” Fink adds, “the question becomes: How do we encourage and foster product innovation in this new area?” The answer, he says, lies at the core of AFFOA’s activities: Innovators across the country will be invited to execute “advanced fabric” products on prototyping and pilot scales. Moreover, the center will link these innovators with funding from large companies and venture capital investors, to execute their ideas through the manufacturing stage. The center will thus lower the barrier to innovation and unleash product creativity in this new domain, he says.


Promoting leadership in manufacturing

The federal selection process for the new institute was administered by the Department of Defense through the U.S. Army’s ManTech Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the Army Contracting Command in New Jersey. Retired Gen. Paul J. Kern will serve as chairman of the institute.

As explained in the original call for proposals to create this institute, the aim is to ensure “that America leads in the manufacturing of new products from leading edge innovations in fiber science, commercializing fibers and textiles with extraordinary properties. Known as technical textiles, these modern day fabrics and fibers boast novel properties ranging from being incredibly lightweight and flame resistant, to having exceptional strength. Technical textiles have wide-ranging applications, from advancing capabilities of protective gear allowing fire fighters to battle the hottest flames, to ensuring that a wounded soldier is effectively treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage and returned safely.”

In a presentation last fall about the proposed partnership, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “We believe that partnerships — with industry and government and across academia — are critical to our capacity to create positive change.” He added, “Our nation has no shortage of smart, ambitious people with brilliant new ideas. But if we want a thriving economy, producing more and better jobs, we need more of those ideas to get to market faster.” Accelerating such implementation is at the heart of the new partnership’s goals.


Connecting skills, workers, and jobs

This partnership, Reif said, will be “a system that connects universities and colleges with motivated companies and with far-sighted government agencies, so we can learn from each other and work with each other. A system that connects workers with skills, and skilled workers with jobs. And a system that connects advanced technology ideas to the marketplace or to those who can get them to market.”

Part of the power of this new collaboration, Fink says, is combining the particular skills and resources of the different partners so that they “add up to something that’s more than the sum of the parts.” Existing large companies can contribute both funding and expertise, smaller startup companies can provide their creative new ideas, and the academic institutions can push the research boundaries to open up new technological possibilities.

“MIT recognizes that advancing manufacturing is vital to our innovation process, as we explored in our Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) study,” says MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. “AFFOA will connect our campus even more closely with industries (large and small), with educational organizations that will develop the skilled workers, and with government at the state and federal level — all of whom are necessary to advance this new technology. AFFOA is an exciting example of the public-private partnerships that were envisioned in the recommendation of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.”

A wide range of industries are expected to benefit from these revolutionary fibers and textiles, including apparel, consumer products, automotive, medical devices, and consumer electronics. “Fibers and fabrics are ubiquitous,” Fink says. “Our institute will go everywhere a fiber and fabric goes.”


Written by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office, with contributions from Manufacture New York.


Bob Bland, Manufacture New York; 917-349-9155

Cheri Fein, Fashion Institute of Technology ; 212-217-4718

Kimberly Allen, MIT News Office; 617.253.2702



Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (

Manufacture New York (

Manufacture New York's mission is to reawaken and rebuild America's fashion industry, foster the next wave of businesses, and create a transparent, sustainable global supply chain.  Founded in 2012, we are transforming the fashion ecosystem (design, development and distribution) and creating a new, vertically integrated business model that serves the fashion industry’s needs of today and the future. Our flagship headquarters, Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is a world-class 160,000 sf manufacturing innovation hub. Our community includes a diverse range of hard working & talented fashion designers, manufacturers and technologists. For more, visit

Fashion Institute of Technology (

The Fashion Institute of Technology, a college of the State University of New York, has been a leader in career education in art, design, business, and technology for more than 70 years. With a curriculum that provides a singular blend of hands-on, practical experience, classroom study, and a firm grounding in the liberal arts, FIT offers a wide range of outstanding programs that are affordable and relevant to today’s rapidly changing industries. Internationally renowned, FIT draws on its New York City location to provide a vibrant, creative community in which to learn. The college offers nearly 50 majors and grants AAS, BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees, preparing students for professional success and leadership in the global marketplace. Visit