BILLERICA -- It's hard for many to grasp the concept of hypersonic speeds.
Hypersonic is when speeds get to Mach 5 -- more than five times the speed of sound.
Billerica's SI2 Technologies, Inc. and UMass Lowell are about to learn all about hypersonic applications, thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative.
Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash announced the grant at SI2 Technologies on Thursday, before touring the Boston Road facility with company president and CEO Joseph Kunze, along with UMass Lowell faculty and other officials.
"Together, between companies and universities, we're able to make further investments that are making a difference," Ash said Thursday.
He emphasized that manufacturing is growing throughout the state, and that these grants are critical to this growth.
The new advanced manufacturing grant is supported by the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative and by the national NextFlex consortium, a Manufacturing USA institute.
As a result of this grant, SI2 Technologies and UMass Lowell will partner to research and develop a flexible, electronic antenna that must be able to survive high temperatures at hypersonic speeds.
"As a small business, this would be difficult to achieve otherwise," Kunze said. "This partnership lets us push further faster to maintain a competitive advantage."
SI2 Technologies, Inc. designs, develops and manufactures antennas, arrays and absorber systems for military air, land, sea and space applications. The company creates solutions for complex battlefield problems facing today's warfighters.
Julie Chen, vice chancellor for research and innovation at UMass Lowell, said these projects are important to keep students in Massachusetts after they graduate.
"They see these great opportunities," Chen said. "They see they can have challenging careers here.
"It's not enough to sit in a classroom," she added. "The experience our students get by working on these projects with the SI2 folks is so valuable."
Formed in 2015 through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and FlexTech Alliance, NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, nonprofits and state, local and federal governments.
Their shared goal is to advance U.S. manufacturing of flexible hybrid electronics.
"We're here to try to make life easier for everybody, and allow companies to get products out there," said Malcolm Thompson, executive director of NextFlex.