|The photonics industry gathered in Washington, D.C., to engage in a discussion about a national photonics initiative.|
More than 100 representatives from government and the photonics industry convened in Washington, D.C., on February 28 to identify focus areas for a national photonics initiative (NPI), engaging academia, industry, and government in a collaboration to address barriers to continued U.S. leadership in photonics.
Titled “Optics & Photonics: Lighting A Path for the Future,” the event was organized by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, in partnership with four other technical organizations. The meeting included briefings by subcommittees and industry representatives on future needs, and perspectives of technology experts from the five key optics and photonics sectors -- communication, defense, health and medicine, manufacturing, and energy –on how focus ideas for the NPI.
Recommendations are expected to be released later this month.
Establishment of the NPI was a key recommendation of the groundbreaking National Academy of Sciences report “Optics & Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation” released in August 2012.
Last week’s event was attended by representatives of numerous government labs and agencies, such as the Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards and Technology, DARPA, the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and NASA. Industry representatives included attendees from Corning, Agilent, Northrup-Grumman, Alacatel-Lucent, and IBM.
Speakers touched on issues such as decreasing numbers of U.S. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates for the next generation of the workforce, the increased investment by other national governments in science and technology, and the lack of a cohesive photonics R&D direction in the U.S. in the face of well-defined initiatives in several other countries.
Without a cohesive policy in support of photonics advances, speakers warned, the U.S. will slip from its place of technology leadership, manufacturing will continue to shift outside the U.S., and forward progress in photonics-enabled applications in medicine, cybersecurity, broadband, bridge and highway infrastructure safety, and other areas will be impaired.
“Photonics is a critical enabler for our high-tech economy,” said Paul McManamon, one of several members of the report that produced the committee who attended last week’s event. “The Internet, MRIs and CAT scans, and space mission spin-offs such as optical blood diagnostic instruments and infrared cameras that indicate hot spots in a fire are just a few examples of photonics-enabled applications. If the U.S. wants to retain high-tech leadership and jobs, we need the National Photonics Initiative.”
Committee members Alan Willner, Tom Baer, and Edward White, also attended and participated in a panel discussion.
Along with SPIE, sponsoring organizations included the Optical Society (OSA), IEEE Photonics Society, American Physical Society, and the Laser Institute of America.
SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.