Osceola County’s public-private technology consortium known as BRIDG this week scored a $20 million contract with the U.S. Defense Department.
It’s for developing secure microelectronics for the military’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program, which enables research and development, as well as design, production, delivery and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems and components or parts.
The IBAS program essentially funds manufacturing capabilities to increase the readiness and lethality of U.S. forces.
“In order to retain the leading edge for our warfighters, we must take the necessary steps to increase domestic development and manufacturing capacity for critical emerging technologies. BRIDG is very well positioned to provide the Defense Department with this critical, next-generation technology,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said in a press release from Osceola County announcing the contract.
Rubio, a Republican, worked with Central Florida Congressman Darren Soto, a Democrat, to help facilitate the deal between IBAS and BRIDG.
“I’m proud to have worked in a bi-partisan manner with Senator Rubio to support BRIDG and their efforts to achieve federal recognition for their advanced microelectronics work,” Soto said. This contract will strengthen our national security and continue to bring high tech jobs home to Central Florida.”
BRIDG, short for Bridging the Innovation Development Gap, opened more than two years ago as part of the 500-acre NeoCity technology park in Kissimmee.
The IBAS defense contract is a first for BRIDG, although it’s primed for more and has attracted other high-profile partners such as Siemens, imec USA and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
BRIDG provides physical space for public-private collaboration on sensor technology development focused on commercializing smart sensors – used in everything from weapons tracking systems to cell phones.
Anchored by the University of Central Florida BRIDG and NeoCity were funded by Osceola County, the Florida Legislature and the Florida High Tech Corridor, with an initial investment of $200 million.
The high-tech research labs at BRIDG were built to attract companies, other universities and government partners by saving them on the cost of expensive infrastructure such as the facility’s “clean” room, one of the largest in Florida. The super-sterile environment (no dust, no static electricity) is needed to work with the semiconductor material used to make smart sensors.
The infrastructure provided by BRIDG allows technology companies to jump right into research and development cheaper and easier versus building their own labs.
Much of the technology developed through the IBAS contract will be for defense applications initially, according to officials.
However, that technology will likely lead to commercial applications and could allow BRIDG to become a leader in 5G wireless, smart sensors and the Internet of Things, a term that refers to the ability to transfer data across networks without human operation.
Meanwhile, local officials are banking on BRIDG and NeoCity to change the economic landscape of Osceola County, now driven by tourism and agriculture.
Located off U.S. Highway 192, the BRIDG/NeoCity sits across the street from Osceola Heritage Park, a former rodeo arena. Officials have said the investment could create thousands of new jobs.
“The award announcement is recognition that Osceola County is an emerging leader in securing our nation’s microelectronics supply chain. The work we do here will not only help our service members by providing them with advanced technology that was completely, and securely built in the United States, but will also create new high tech jobs right here in Kissimmee and Central Florida,” said Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Grieb.