DoD awards integrated photonics manufacturing program to New York team

The U.S. Department of Defense has chosen a team led by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (RF SUNY) to oversee a five-year, $610 million program to create an integrated photonics manufacturing capability in the U.S. The RF SUNY team, which comprises 124 companies, nonprofit organizations, and universities, will establish the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics (alternatively, AIM-Photonics), headquartered in Rochester, NY, but with facilities across the country. The New York group was one of three finalists for the honor, along with teams from California (led by the University of Southern California) and Florida (led by the University of Central Florida).

The U.S. Department of Defense has chosen a team led by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (RF SUNY) to oversee a five-year, $610 million program to create an integrated photonics manufacturing capability in the U.S. The RF SUNY team, which comprises 124 companies, nonprofit organizations, and universities, will establish the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics (alternatively, AIM-Photonics), headquartered in Rochester, NY, but with facilities across the country. The New York group was one of three finalists for the honor, along with teams from California (led by the University of Southern California) and Florida (led by the University of Central Florida).

The Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics is one of nine such public/private partnership organizations the Obama Administration plans to create as part of the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes (NNMI) program, an effort to boost manufacturing capabilities and innovation within the United States. The NNMI was established through the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act of 2014. The new manufacturing capability is expected to benefit a wide variety of integrated photonics applications, including fiber-optic networks. In particular, it aims to provide manufacturing capabilities to smaller companies as well as universities that can't afford to establish their own.

Goals of the new Manufacturing Innovation Institute include:

  • Development of a U.S. photonics ecosystem that includes domestic foundry access; integrated design tools; automated packaging, assembly and testing; and workforce development.
  • Creation of a standardized integrated photonics platform that would make it easier to scale the technology across multiple markets and drive performance, cost, and scaling requirements.
  • Connecting players from across the photonics industry, including manufacturers, material suppliers, software developers, government, and academia to collaborate on integrated photonics development. This includes pairing technology suppliers with users and researchers to reveal requirements and develop technology in response.

The RF SUNY team includes several companies in the optical communications space, either in technology development or manufacturing. They include Acacia Communications, Analog Photonics, Aurrion, Axsun Technologies, Chiral Photonics, Corning, FiconTEC, IBM, Infinera, Intel, Juniper Networks, Keysight Technologies, Nistica, Samtech, and TE Connectivity.

The DoD will chip in $110 million for the effort, with the rest coming from private sources. The Department of Commerce (via the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation are also expected to support the program.

Vice President Joseph Biden made the official announcement in Rochester July 27, after New York Senator Charles Schumer spilled the beans last week.

The integrated photonics manufacturing effort was originally called the Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI). The DoD changed the name to the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics to be consistent with the AMP 2.0 report terminology in the report the DoD and other government organizations involved in the NNMI effort released in March 2015.

Several photonics organizations hailed the announcement.

"This announcement occurring during the United Nations-decreed International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a very energizing event for our national photonics community," said Jim McNally, chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy committee. "National Photonics Initiative (NPI) and other advocacy activities intended to raise awareness among national, state, and local policy leaders and decision makers have produced a tangible outcome."

"Today is a great day for the US photonics industry, and we congratulate the New York consortium on this win. While other countries have heavily invested in advancing their optics and photonics industries, the United States' lead in this cutting-edge technology has dwindled," NPI Steering Committee Chairman Alan Willner, who also teaches at USC, head of the California team. "Establishing an IP-IMI in New York is a step in the right direction for our industry and will strengthen our country's position as the world leader in transitioning photonics research to commercial markets."

"Photonics technologies in advanced manufacturing have been a key component in the revitalization of U.S. manufacturing, especially in the automotive and aerospace industries," said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society. "The Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation highlights the economic impact of optics and photonics and will strengthen our global competitiveness. We congratulate the New York consortium, and we look forward to working with the new IP-IMI team, as well as continuing our support and affiliation with the finalists."

Both the SPIE and The Optical Society are members of the RF SUNY team.

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