Photonics selected for U.S. Department of Defense technology initiative

A joint statement released by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Prtizker identifies photonics as one a key technology area that will be pursued for the newly created Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation.

Oct 6th, 2014

A joint statement released by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Prtizker identifies photonics as one a key technology area that will be pursued for the newly created Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI).

The U.S. Department of Defense will be leading a competition to award more than $100 million in federal investment, which will be matched by $100 million or more in private investment to the winning consortia to build a new IMI focused on integrated photonics. The IMI 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, according to the White House press release.

Each 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. In addition, Federal agencies will co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S. Photonics was identified, according to the White House, because it has the potential to revolutionize a number of key markets.

“Beyond the Internet and telecommunications, integrated photonics can revolutionize medical technology – from the development of “needleless” technologies for monitoring diabetics’ blood sugar levels to tiny cameras smaller than pills that can travel within arteries. Integrated Photonics are expected to bring the sequencing of human genomes rapidly down the cost curve, making genome sequencing possible for less than $1,000 as compared to $5,000 today. And in national defense, the potential applications of integrated photonics range from improving battlefield imaging to dramatic advances in radar.”

Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society (OSA), commented on the news while at the Evaporated Metal Films Corporation’s manufacturing facility in Ithaca, N.Y. on the same day of the announcement.

"The DOD’s announcement to pursue a photonics-focused IMI is a significant success not only for our community but also for the future of scientific research and development," said Rogan. "OSA recognizes the time, resources and collaboration it took to participate in this process and commends the community for their efforts. Photonics is receiving the recognition it deserves and American manufacturing stands to benefit as a result."

In addition, SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs offered his thoughts, noting that the announcement is a very tangible recognition by the White House of the importance of photonics.

"Essential technologies' summarizes the reality, and photonics has already changed the world, but there is so much more," he said. "A photonics manufacturing institute will help the US build from the extensive but dispersed national expertise. This step is due to the work of all the associations who helped coordinate a community voice to Congress and the Administration, and to the many from industry, academia and government laboratories who gave of their time to work on, and deliver the clear message, 'the future is photonic, action is needed for the US to participate.'"

View the White House press release.

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