White House launches $200 million photonics manufacturing initiative

Leaders of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance of scientific societies from both industry and academia, welcomed news that President Barack Obama has launched a competition to award more than $200 million in public and private investment to create an integrated photonics manufacturing institute.

Leaders of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance of scientific societies from both industry and academia, welcomed news that President Barack Obama has launched a competition to award more than $200 million in public and private investment to create an integrated photonics manufacturing institute.

According to a White House Fact Sheet, the Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute will focus on developing an end-to-end photonics ecosystem in the U.S., including domestic foundry access, integrated design tools, automated packaging, assembly and test, and workforce development.

The manufacturing innovation institute will serve as a regional hub, bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities, and other academic and training institutions and Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.

"Today’s announcement by President Obama and Commerce Secretary Pritzker is the highest possible endorsement and acknowledgment of the critical role that the U.S. photonics industry will play in solving many of the present day challenges, creating U.S. jobs, boosting the economy, and enhancing national security," said NPI Steering Committee chairman Dr. Tom Baer. "The NPI encourages the photonics community to follow these developments closely and continue to provide information and insight requested by the administration."

The announcement follows a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the Department of Defense (DoD) in early June seeking responses from experts on key technologies that could become the basis for a new Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI) within the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The NPI, in partnership with founding sponsor societies The Optical Society of America (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), organized a response from dozens of experts within the national photonics community to answer the DoD’s request.

"Recognition by the administration signifies the NPI’s success in bringing together industry and academia to promote the critical importance of photonics," said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan. "The NPI welcomes the opportunity to work with the optics and photonics community to further demonstrate how a photonics-based IMI would serve to strengthen US national and economic security."

Photonics technologies enable nearly every commercial sector from defense to advanced manufacturing, information technology, and communications to medicine. Historically the United States has been the world pioneer in transitioning photonics research to the commercial markets; however, increased global competition has put at risk the country’s leadership position in jeopardy, threatening national security, economic growth and the pipeline of U.S. jobs, the alliance asserts in its statement.

The NPI’s recent white paper, "Strategic Request: A National Photonics Prototyping and Advanced Manufacturing Facility to Ensure Economic Growth and National Security," outlines the arguments for investments in photonics and advocates for support for a vertically integrated national photonics prototyping and advanced manufacturing facility that would bring together end-users and material scientists, device engineers, system architects, and advanced manufacturing experts to develop solutions to drive tomorrow’s technology innovations.

For more information on optical subsystems and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyer’s Guide.

More in Optical Tech