Cover Story

BRIDG The Gap

Between Innovation and Development

 

Building something significant. Something meaningful. Something transformative. These are the dreams that started most engineers down the path toward their chosen careers. And it is exactly the thing that’s drawing the eyes of the world to Central Florida and the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), which now will be known as BRIDG, as smart sensor technology begins to drive a significant part of the world’s economy.

ICAMR is building a BRIDG

Let me explain. In development of industry, there is a traditional gap between the people who research and create the technology that makes something possible and the industrial vision for using that technology in products that need to be manufactured.

Advanced Manufacturing – Designing and building products that use emerging technologies and require high-tech, educated, expert manufacturing talent to produce.

Traditionally, there is a design, develop, sell progression. Take the fashion industry as an example. First, you design the dress, then you manufacture the dress, and finally, you take the dress to market in your store, throughout your chain, on your website. And you make the economic choices that make the most sense along the way. This is one of the reasons so much of the American manufacturing base has been drawn overseas in some industries in the past generation. In some cases, manufacturing and shipping costs are far lower than the cost of producing things in America.

High technology, however, has several very different challenges. Often, as in the case of smart sensor technology, the cost of developing specific tools and technology that operate on silicon wafers is excessively high. And much of the work developing that technology is being done in university lab settings, often without specific industry application in mind.

Industry, on the other hand, has very specific needs for some of that technology but often can’t or doesn’t want to staff an R&D group in-house to solve the technological problems of the industry alone.

This is where BRIDG comes in. BRIDG, or Bridging the Innovation to Development Gap, is the mission the corsortium is embarking upon. It is their mission to cooperatively link the people doing the research with the people who manufacture that research into products like self-driving cars, drones that measure agricultural activity, and systems that control home or office environments remotely or automatically. This is the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything that is changing the way humans interact with the world. BRIDG is a unique innovation exchange designed to accelerate the manufacturing development of emerging technologies to fuel tomorrow’s emerging technologies .

It’s easy to dismiss this statement as hyperbole, but the truth is technological development is hitting a point of critical mass, and it is not at all excessive to say evolving sensor technology and the advanced manufacturing capabilities turning that technology into everyday use – will fundamentally transform the way humans interact with every aspect of the world in the next several years.

Sensors are those tiny technological devices that allow you to interact naturally with things like the touch screen on your phone or tablet. From self-driving cars, to buildings that optimize their environments automatically based on the position of the sun, to wearable devices that monitor heart rate, blood chemistry, temperature and more to smart parking, smart traffic management, smart waste management, smart roads and cities; the capability of applying smart sensors to human living is already transforming the world we live in and the way we live in it. The technology in development now is on track to become a disruptive force in virtually every industry value chain that delivers a product or service to anyone, anywhere.

BRIDG CEO Chester Kennedy says the speed of change in the sensors industry is fast approaching a tipping point.“Advanced smart sensors are going to fundamentally change everything we do in our lives in the next five to seven years,” Kennedy said. “And we are at the center of it all.”

BRIDG is an industry-led consortium for advanced sensors, optics and photonics, and other advanced device manufacturing opportunities such as 2.5/3D heterogeneous packaging. It focuses on the development of innovative manufacturable processes, materials, and equipment for advanced smart sensors and other future high-tech products. BRIDG is initially targeting the mega-growth technologies that will lead to over 50 billion smart sensors and imagers that will be connected by the beginning of the next decade transforming the way humans interact with the world every day.

Why Here? What’s the

Economic Attraction to Osceola?

An historically agrarian area of the state known most recently as the home base of many Walt Disney World employees, the most obvious question Kennedy gets is “why here?” Why look to build a high-technology advanced manufacturing facility out in the middle of the old Judge Farm property, now known as Neo City.

For Kennedy, it’s a one-word answer: jobs.

“Our measure of success is enabling businesses to create large numbers of jobs in the region,” he says, simply.

“Our objective is to have businesses make money off of our infrastructure,” Kennedy says. “That’s how they create jobs. I don’t want businesses to be shy about the fact that they’re trying to make money on the technology.”

While BRIDG itself is expected to account for more than 100 high-paying, high-technology jobs ($82,000/year average), as the consortium attracts industry members and partners to the area such as current member Melbourne-based Harris Corporation, the impact on high-tech jobs is expected to number between 10,000 and 20,000 with a multiplier effect of up to 80,000 or more total jobs across the region.

Slated to open in Spring 2017, the building is nothing short of an engineering marvel: a 109,000 sq. ft. state-of-the art cleanroom manufacturing development center where scientists will devise tiny chips and wafers to hold smart sensors. To prevent vibrations that can disturb the highly precise work in the laboratory, the foundation is anchored 40 feet into the ground.

The Second Internet Revolution

Only .5 percent of all objects are currently connected. As that number inevitably grows—it is predicted that by 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be connected by sensors—smart sensor technology will be the hub of where all that information, all that data gets collected, processed and activated.

In Osceola, BRIDG is uniquely poised to identify Central Florida as a global advanced manufacturing hub that will play a significant role in the way the entire world develops into the coming decades. 

About the author

i4 Business

i4 Business

I4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders, along with economic trends that are shaping our region.

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