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June 21, 2021

SEMI NBMC Unveils AFRL-Industry Co-Development Program to Help Drive Smart Medtech Innovation

Taking aim at advancing smart medtech innovation, the SEMI Nano-Bio Materials Consortium (NBMC), in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), in March 2020 identified 12 organizations from industry and academia as recipients of $20.4 million in funding, leveraging $10.7 million of cost-share from award recipients.

Unique to this round – the sixth in NBMC’s eight years – is a pilot program for NBMC and AFRL to collaborate more closely and share more resources. As part of that effort, AFRL is contributing additional funding to seven of the 12 projects to enable its researchers to work alongside industry on the projects in the new AFRL-Industry Co-Development Program.

AFRL logoAfter being matched to a project during pre-RFP discussions – also known as the White Paper Stage – AFRL researchers were designated as NBMC Consortium Project Investigators before collaborating with industry on the second stage of proposal development. Once contract negotiations between NBMC and the proposing entity wrap up, the AFRL investigators will participate in the development of smart medtech innovations.

“This is a new way for AFRL researchers to participate as project performers responsible for contributing to project milestones and deliverables, in addition to providing program management oversight that AFRL has employed for past NBMC projects,” said Dr. Jeremy Ward, past NBMC government lead and current participant in the AFRL Entrepreneurial Opportunity Program. 

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“This program should enable technical risk-reduction for industry by leveraging AFRL competencies and U.S. Air Force aeromedical and airmen performance mission connectedness and ultimately help speed the development of dual-use smart medtech,” added Matt Dalton, AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate program manager and NBMC Governing Council member.

“We need efficient mechanisms to leverage research being done outside of AFRL,” said Sharma, who is also senior technical lead for Cognitive Neuroscience at AFRL's 711th Human Performance Wing. “If someone is developing a groundbreaking technology that can be helpful for our airmen, then let’s work with them so that we have an opportunity at an early stage to actively shape that research for Air Force-relevant use cases. Similarly, with this co-development initiative, external researchers will also get an opportunity to work alongside world-class researchers at AFRL and, through those interactions, get insights into the needs of the operational community.”

Smart Medtech logo“The AFRL-Industry Co-Development Program strengthens the work between AFRL and industry to better target the strategic needs of the Air Force for dual-use technologies while more closely aligning with commercial market requirements,” said Dr. Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, SEMI CTO and Executive Director of NBMC. “This new collaboration will enable the growth of the ecosystem critical to bringing the latest smart medtech innovations to market while making the technology’s supply chain more sustainable and resilient.”

SEMI NBMC connects military, industry and academia for research and development into the practical use of nano-biomaterials. The 2020 RFP targeted nano-bio materials for wearables, flexible and alternative power sources for wearables, and open concepts for wearables for diagnostics and ambulatory monitoring. These technologies address the critical need to monitor, evaluate and mitigate stress experienced by workers in high-pressure occupations – such as aviation, emergency, critical care and aeromedical evacuation – to enhance their warfighter performance and help ensure their well-being.

For more information on SEMI NBMC, our R&D funding projects, and how you can help shape the direction of our funding programs, visit our website or contact me at


Learn more about our projects at the 2021 Global Smart MedTech Symposium July 28-29 and August 4-5, 2021. For more information about the NBMC-AFRL collaboration, see the 2020 Smart MedTech Virtual Workshop agenda.

This article borrows from a U.S. Air Force press release on May 27, 2021.

Rene Krantz is program manager for SEMI NBMC Smart MedTech.