Defense secretary announces $171M Silicon Valley initiative

Pentagon contract aims to stimulate new military technology development in the country’s innovation cradle.

Silicon Valley’s newest deal comes with a high-profile supporter: Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

In a public announcement made in Moffett Field, California, Friday, Carter described the details of a $171 million award granted to FlexTech Alliance, a consortium of over 160 Silicon Valley companies, universities and nonprofits. The companies will use the funds to pioneer research and development in the fields of flexible hybrid electronics and wearable devices.

The agreement will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, which will distribute $75 million in DOD funds over the next five years. This figure will be supplemented by an additional $90 million contributed by a combination of industry, research entities and local governments, according to the Pentagon.

FlexTech includes a number of leading names in the electronics, semiconductor and energy industries, including Apple, Applied Technologies, Boeing, Motorola, Qualcomm as well as General Motors.


Among the innovations the Pentagon is looking for are flexible integrated circuits, Carter said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We need to be a technology leader to protect our country, and we can be a technology leader only if we partner with folks out here,” he added.

Carter was set to lead a post-announcement roundtable with the Defense Innovation Unit – Experimental, a think tank of Silicon Valley leaders that he initiated in early 2015 to channel technocrat brainpower through the Pentagon.

“The DIUx will position the Department of Defense to be more open to the infusion of non-traditional technical ideas and talent,” stated a post on the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Marketplace, a portal to DOD’s research and engineering investment priorities. “The initiative is designed to create a hub for increased communication with, knowledge of, and access to innovating, high-tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs and their leading edge technologies.”

Carter’s announcement in Moffett Field fortified roots he planted with a Stanford University speech in April — the first public appearance of a Defense secretary in Silicon Valley within the past 20 years.

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