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Pentagon joins Silicon Valley in 'flexible' tech hub

The Pentagon is building a tech hub in Silicon Valley to help create new gadgetry for the supersoldiers of the future as well as tech-savvy consumers.
   
A plan unveiled Friday called for a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute to be based in San Jose, California to work on new kinds of flexible technology that can be used both on the battlefield or for civilian health, smart homes and cities.
   
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."
   
It brings together the electronics industry and the high-precision printing industry in a "FlexTech Alliance" to create sensors that conform to the curves of a human body or stretch across an object or structure.
   
The $171 million plan announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will get $75 million in federal funds, and bring together electronics and semiconductor companies like Applied Materials, Apple, United Technologies, Hewlett-Packard and Qualcomm with users of the technology such as Boeing, General Motors, the Cleveland Clinic, Corning and Motorola.
   
The goal is to make better "flexible" and "bendable" electronic sensors -- the key elements which make objects "smart" and connect to the Internet of Things.
   
"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 fibers of roads, bridges, and other structures across the globe," the statement said.
   
A separate Pentagon statement said these technologies "promise dual use applications in both the consumer economy and the development of military solutions for the warfighter."
   
The project is the latest effort by the US military to overcome a rift with Silicon Valley and bring the tech sector into its efforts to innovate.