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Competition launch for new photonics institute proposals shows impact of community efforts, say SPIE leaders

DoD announces proposal competition for integrated photonics public-private R&D partnership

06 November 2014

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- Launch today of a competition to select a specific direction for the newly authorized Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute (IPMI) is due in part to diligent, concerted effort on the part of dedicated volunteers from throughout the community, say leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

Opening the competition for proposed projects moves the institute, one of several announced early last month by President Barack Obama and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, another step forward.

The Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs) will operate as regional hubs, bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities, and other academic and training institutions with federal agencies, to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.

Altogether, six IMIs have been announced. The integrated photonics institute is among four to be led by the Department of Defense (DoD), and has a planned government investment of up to $110 million to be shared at least 1:1 by the private sector.

James McNally
James McNally
Eugene Arthurs
Eugene Arthurs

"Individuals from throughout the photonics ecosystem have worked diligently for the establishment of a photonics-centric IMI," said James McNally, chair of the SPIE Engineering Science, Technology, and Policy (ESTeP) Committee. "This accomplishment is the result of many visits to Congressional offices, multiple interactions with the White House, numerous optics technology demonstrations at various laboratories and companies throughout the U.S., and other conversations sharing the important contributions that optics and photonics make in our lives."

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs also credited ongoing efforts by volunteers from SPIE and other organizations to raise awareness among policy-makers about the importance of photonics, including work in the past few years working collaboratively in the National Photonics Initiative (NPI).

"Given the impressive capabilities of the industry and its research community, we know that the competition for the IPMI will not only be keen but will provide illustrations of the vital roles photonics plays in manufacturing, healthcare, community safety, national security, and communications," Arthurs said. "Numerous forums at SPIE and other events have helped to advance the basic and applied research employed in the creation and evolution of technologies driving computing, data storage, broadband and fiber-optic communications, LEDs and other sustainable lighting and energy technologies, and circuitry and displays for smartphones, computers, televisions, and movie screens."

With the expertise and talent existing in the industry, Arthurs said he expects that the appraisers whose task it is to choose from among the proposals will have a wealth of choice. "We congratulate those who have worked hard for this achievement, and wish the best to those who will take up the challenge and submit their proposals," he said. "There may be just one IMPI, but I expect that the competition will produce many winners. The connections and ideas that will be developed will lead to innovation and new enterprises outside the IPMI. I'm counting on this exercise converting some of the boundless ideas in our community into products, processes, and, especially, jobs."

McNally noted that the opportunity coincides with the United Nations-designated International Year of Light in 2015. The observance was established to promote and celebrate the significance of light and its importance to humankind.

"I have no doubt that the elation my fellow SPIE members feel as the Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation moves closer to reality is widely shared," he said. "With the involvement and collaboration from academia and industry throughout the process, the photonics manufacturing institute will provide a very powerful framework from which to innovate manufacturing processes, develop new products, build new applications, create new, high-value jobs, improve the quality of life across the globe, and position U.S. companies to be more competitive in the global photonics marketplace."

More information is in a press release issued by the NPI on today's Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). A Proposers Day is planned for 19 November in Rosslyn, Virginia.

The NPI team will hold an informational webinar at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Monday 24 November for people interested in responding to the BAA. A registration form will be posted at www.lightourfuture.org.

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 256,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided more than $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2013.

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