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NIST Program for Advanced Manufacturing awards grant to develop national roadmap for photonics

University of Rochester's Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences receives $500,000 award to lead photonics roadmap project

08 May 2014

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), through its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia Program (AMTech), has awarded $500,000 to the University of Rochester's Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences (CEIS) to lead the development of a national roadmap for photonics.

With the AMTech award, CEIS will work with its partners and other organizations throughout the community including SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). The goal is to forecast the introduction of new technologies and identify manufacturing challenges that, if solved, can strengthen the competitiveness of domestic photonics companies and expand photonics manufacturing in the United States.

"The National Academies' report, 'Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation,' called out the abysmal state of data on optics and photonics jobs and investment in the U.S.," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "Roadmapping should help address this deficit and illuminate the enormous potential the field holds for world-changing innovation and jobs. The nation has sown seeds with R&D for decades. Let's plan how best to harvest."

The NPI is a collaborative, industry-driven campaign to advance photonics research and funding, established on the recommendation of a 2013 National Academies report. Founding sponsors are SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and The Optical Society (OSA). The NPI is supported by numerous photonics associations and companies, and is active in communicating the importance of the field to policy makers and the public.

The CEIS press release announcing the AMTech award notes that the U.S. has been the world leader in developing photonics technologies, which include fiber optics, lasers, digital imaging, and flat panel displays. However, the U.S. share of photonics manufacturing has dropped to less than 10% of photonics components sold worldwide. The roadmap will identify key priorities and lay out a plan for addressing this.

"The roadmap will address critical gaps to increase our nation's competitiveness in photonics manufacturing," said Robert L. Clark, senior vice president for research at the University of Rochester and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "We are excited to be able to lead this effort in partnership with industry and other key stakeholders."

Photonics is one area of advanced manufacturing the AMTech program will support. AMTech was designed to address the gap between research and development activities and the deployment of technological innovations in the domestic production of goods. This gap is economically damaging and it has been highlighted by the National Science and Technology Council, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and other bodies, CEIS noted in its announcement of the grant.

Guided by the roadmap, the project will also lay the foundation for a national consortium devoted to advanced manufacturing in photonics.

"The University of Rochester and our partner organizations are honored to be given the task of organizing the development of a national technology roadmap for photonics manufacturing," said Paul Ballentine, CEIS' deputy director. "By working with domain experts across the country, we will help the industry identify key technical barriers that need to be overcome to strengthen photonics manufacturing in the U.S."

As lead of the AMTech photonics manufacturing initiative, Ballentine said the next steps are to identify committee heads drawn from large and small companies in the sector as well as academia. SPIE Industry and Market Analyst Steve Anderson is among those who will serve on the advisory board, he said.

"This is an important opportunity to convene photonics industry clusters from around the country and their manufacturing affiliates," said Tom Battley, executive director of New York Photonics. "It will strengthen the nation's optics, photonics, and imaging industry."

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 $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2013.


Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager
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