MxD Leads Regional Implementation of NextFlex $5M Workforce Education Program Expansion

Funding from the Office of Naval Research will fuel manufacturing and engineering focused learning programs in Chicago and across the United States

May 19, 2020 – NextFlex®, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Institute, announced today the expansion of its manufacturing workforce education activities with $5 million in funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Through the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP), the funding will support the development of new education programs modeled on NextFlex’s award-winning, FHE-focused FlexFactor® program. Each new program will focus on a different technology area, such as advanced robotics, biopharmaceuticals, and tissue biofabrication. Most programs will target K-12 students.

MxD will receive a portion of the funding to implement regional programs related to digital manufacturing and cybersecurity.

“This funding supports our mission to train the future manufacturing workforce to be digitally savvy and adaptable in changing times,” said Lizabeth Stuck, Senior Director of MxD Learn, the education and workforce development arm of MxD. “Cybersecurity training continues to be a central focus as classrooms and workplaces increase their virtual capabilities.”

NextFlex will lead the development of these new programs, in partnership with eight sister non-profit organizations that will co-create and eventually run the programs autonomously. The programs will address the interest and awareness gaps plaguing the STEM sector pipeline in multiple regions of the country. The organizations slated to receive funding from the MEEP Grant, along with their technology focus and pilot locations, are:

• America Makes, Additive Manufacturing, Youngstown, OH
• ARM, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, Pittsburgh, PA
• BioFabUSA, Tissue Biofabrication, Manchester, NH
• IACMI, Advanced Composites, Knoxville, TN
• MxD, Digital Manufacturing and Cybersecurity, Chicago, IL
• NextFlex, FHE, San Jose, CA
• NIIMBL, Biopharmaceuticals, Newark, DE
• RAPID, Modular Chemical Process Intensification, New York, NY
• Spark Photonics Foundation (the education and workforce development arm of AIM Photonics), Photonics, Waltham, MA

These partner organizations incorporate some of the most cutting-edge applications of advanced manufacturing into their technology focus areas of work to assist in creating an innovative and resilient industry for the future.

“Reaching back into the student population is a critical step in creating the future workforce for these technologies because the population who will be working with them when they are fully commercialized is mostly in K-12 grades today. Using the FlexFactor approach, we are attracting a deep and diverse talent pool with a program that demonstrates the power of advanced manufacturing,” said Emily McGrath, NextFlex Director Workforce Development, Education and Training.

The program material creation, which will bring in education partners and industry participants, is slated to begin later in 2020, with all participants monitoring the ongoing impact of COVID-19 to determine the best time to launch the in-school element.

For more information about NextFlex and the FlexFactor program, please visit

The above-described efforts to be undertaken are sponsored by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research under ONR award number N00014-20-1-2250. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.

About MxD
MxD is where innovative manufacturers go to forge their futures. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, MxD equips factories with the digital tools and expertise they need to begin building every part better than the last. As a result, our approximately 300 partners increase their productivity and win more business.

About NextFlex
NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, non-profits and state, local and federal government partners with the shared goal of advancing the manufacture of flexible hybrid electronics in the U.S. Since its formation in 2015, the NextFlex community of technologists, educators, problem solvers and manufacturers have come together to collectively facilitate innovation, narrow the manufacturing workforce gap and promote sustainable manufacturing ecosystems.

Alyssa Sullivan

Karen Savala, 408-797-2219