PHOTONICS: U.S. establishes Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute

On National Manufacturing Day, October 3, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled a new competition to award more than $200 million in public and private investment to create an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute. The announcement was made as part of an address by the President and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

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 development "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 Tom Baer, steering committee chairman of the National Photonics Initiative. "The NPI encourages the photonics community to follow these developments closely and continue to provide information and insight requested by the administration."

The announcement followed a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the Department of Defense (DoD) in June 2014 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). Coordinated by the NPI in partnership with founding sponsor societies The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), dozens of experts within the national photonics community organized to answer DoD's request and provide numerous thoughtful and compelling responses.

"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. According to Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE, the move "will pay dividends across a variety of sectors of the U.S. economy." That includes life sciences, of course.

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 this leadership position. The NPI's recent white paper, Strategic Request: A National Photonics Prototyping and Advanced Manufacturing Facility to Ensure Economic Growth and National Security, advocates for investments in infrastructure to support a vertically integrated National Photonics Prototyping and Advanced Manufacturing Facility.

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