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Textile Trio Awarded $2.8 Million for Manufacturing Innovation

The state of Massachusetts announced $2.8 million in new infrastructure grants last week through the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative, or M2I2, to three growing manufacturers.

The three grants were announced by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy during an event at 99Degrees Custom in Lawrence, a 375-employee manufacturer of tech-integrated apparel that received nearly $1.1 million in new state support. Grants were also awarded to Soliyarn, a maker of smart textiles based in Belmont, and to Human Systems Integration, a wearable technology company headquartered in Walpole.

The three awards highlight the state’s strength in innovative textiles, an advanced manufacturing sector targeted by the M2I2 program.

“These three grantees are developing technical apparel used in medical and military applications, smart products that provide enhanced protection from the elements, but also provide enhanced functionality,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “Through this support, they have the opportunity to enhance their ability to compete in markets across the U.S. and the globe.”

Polito said since its launch in 2016, M2I2 has impacted more than 150 companies across the state and created hundreds of jobs at similar manufacturers.

“For these three grantees, the addition of new tools will help them grow their businesses, add jobs, and bring new products to market, further boosting our economy and growing our manufacturing sector,” she said.

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The M2I2 program, co-managed by the Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) at the MassTech Collaborative and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, aims to foster and grow sectors such as this to spur innovation and job growth within the state through cross-collaboration among companies, universities, national labs, government, incubators, accelerators, and other academic and training institutions. To date, the program has invested over $80 million in direct grants to growing companies, universities and research labs across the state.

The three awarded projects, totaling $2.84 million, include $1.09 million to 99Degrees Custom for the project “Integrated Apparel Innovation Center.” 99Degrees incubates, designs for manufacture, and produces technical performance activewear and wearable technology-integrated apparel for medical device, technology and apparel retail companies. The Integrated Apparel Innovation Center will include a rapid prototyping center for apparel and technology-integrated apparel products, as well as an equipment research and development (R&D) lab to design, develop and build the tooling and machinery to incubate and scale the production of advanced concept apparel and wearable technologies.

“Our lab will be New England’s first industry-led apparel innovation center focused on automation and tooling for apparel manufacturing and wearable tech integration,” said Brenna Nan Schneider, CEO and founder of 99Degrees. “In this moment of surging demand for U.S. manufacturing, the M2I2 grant helps us compete globally while employing locally. This grant is an investment in the future of U.S. manufacturing, wearable technology innovation, and, most importantly, job creation right here in Lawrence.”

Soliyarn will receive $1.5 million for an expansion project to build a manufacturing facility for a scalable chemical vapor deposition (CVD) roll-to-roll system for conductive and PFC-free durable water repellent textiles. The objective is to expand the manufacturing capabilities to allow Soliyarn to produce bolts of conductive and DWR fabric to meet identified military needs and the growing market demand for these types of fabrics.

““This grant is incredibly impactful and allows us to take an active role in the rejuvenation of textile manufacturing in Massachusetts and help us lead the world in wearable technology,” said Adrian Beach, managing member at Soliyarn.

Human Systems Integration gets $250,000 for its project “Critical Manufacturing, Assembly and Integration of Garment-Embedded, Textile Electronics Elements.” The objective of this project is to develop a new garment-embedded, wearable electronics platform that will be configurable during manufacturing to any desired product application.

This is the second M2I2 grant to the company, following a nearly $1.5 million award announced in October 2019.

The Baker-Polito administration has committed more than $100 million in funding to the M2I2 effort, which allows the state to co-invest in projects supported by the national Manufacturing USA initiative, helping promote innovation and job growth across the state. The three grantees have also received support from the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) national manufacturing institute based in Cambridge, Mass.

“Our strong manufacturing sector and involvement with companies through programs like M2I2 was a key reason why Massachusetts was quickly able to address the negative supply issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ben Linville-Engler, chief investment strategist at the MassTech Collaborative.

“The [state’s] engagement with manufacturers and partnership with key R&D facilities, made it much easier to help textile manufacturers and others pivot to produce millions of masks, gowns and face shields that were in high-demand at that time because that trust and collaboration already existed,” Linville-Engler added. “These investment programs have created a strong foundation that have led to these manufacturing success stories that we intend to continue to build on.”