UMass gets $500K advanced manufacturing grant

  • UMass Amherst was awarded a $500K grant for research on the development of a patch sensor that would monitor biomarkers. The photo displays a prototype of the device. Gazette Photo

For The Recorder
Published: 10/10/2017 10:33:31 PM

AMHERST — Some day soon, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst hope to unveil a skin patch that will monitor the health of users as they go about daily activities.

The patch would include sensors that can gauge serious conditions such as a cardiac event or a spike in stress to less serious such as dehydration.

“Think about it as an intelligent Band-Aid,” said James Watkins, director of the Center of Hierarchical Manufacturing at UMass.

To fund the cutting-edge research, the university on Friday received a $500,000 state grant from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative, or M212. The grant is part of $6.98 million in state funds awarded to seven manufacturing projects statewide, and announced by Gov. Charlie Baker and Secretary of Housing Development Jay Ash at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences Conference Center’s life science laboratories on the state’s flagship campus.

“Advanced sensors, smart construction materials and adaptable clothing are just a few of the innovative products that will be developed in Massachusetts’ evolving manufacturing sector over the coming decades,” Baker said in a statement. “These awards will ensure the Commonwealth remains a leader in advanced manufacturing to spur job growth and train students for valuable career opportunities.”

The skin patch under development by Watkins, a polymer scientist, has sensors to collect biomarkers for glucose, stress or medication levels.

He said the United States military is interested in the product to monitor health of soldiers on the battlefield, such as levels of stress and dehydration. But once the technology is developed, it can be used in different variations in everyday life such as monitoring health of the chronically ill, Watkins said.

Other M212 grants include:

$1.9 million to MIT Lincoln Labs in Lexington for a Germanium deposition tool to complete and establish the nation’s first DoD Trusted Integrated Photonics Fabrication Prototyping Facility.

$1.98 million over a three-year span to MIT/Northeast Regional Robotics Innovation Collaborative in Boston to develop and deploy a “Tech-Bot,” a robotics instructor and demonstration machine that interacts with the learner.

“These awards will ensure the commonwealth remains a leader in advanced manufacturing, providing companies access to cutting-edge technology, spurring job creation and economic growth, and training students for the career opportunities of the future,” Baker said.

The grants are part of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative, which is aimed at “building upon the state’s strong academic presence, national leadership in R&D, and innovation ecosystem as well as its strong technology, defense and consumer products sectors,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

According to the Manufacturing in Massachusetts website, 7.8 percent of the state’s workforce is employed in the manufacturing sector — roughly 250,000 people. Massachusetts exported $26 billion in manufactured goods in 2016, the website reported.


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