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‘Photonics’ mention in America COMPETES is good news for progress, economy, says SPIE

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation calls out vital enabling technology in reauthorization bill

08 August 2014

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- The first-ever inclusion of language on optics and photonics in legislation proposing reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act is being heralded as an important step toward strengthening U.S. global competitiveness by leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

The bill from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, chaired by Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller (Democrat, New York), asserts that "optics and photonics research and technologies promote U.S. global competitiveness in industry sectors, including telecommunications and information technology, energy, healthcare and medicine, manufacturing, and defense."

Introduced by the committee on 31 July, the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Reauthorization Act of 2014 bill recommends that federal agencies work with optics and photonics industry and research partners and support internal programs to leverage knowledge and resources and to promote innovation.

"We are gratified and delighted to see support for optics and photonics in this legislation. This recognition underscores the vital roles that applications of these technologies play in the lives of people everywhere," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "Senator Rockefeller and the committee are to be commended for this sound inclusion, and the membership and partners of SPIE are grateful for their vision."

The America COMPETES Act first became law in 2007, and was reauthorized in 2010. It was intended to drive investment in innovation through research and development, and to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global marketplace.

Arthurs noted that research reported at SPIE events and published in the society's journals, conference proceedings, and books illustrates the vast range of the technology's potential. SPIE's exhibitions are evidence of how the technology is already a sizable piece of the economy. Applications enabled by optics and photonics influence the entire modern economy.

"Our constituents are the scientists and engineers who are developing new light-based technologies to detect and treat conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and epilepsy. They conceptualized and built the internet and are working on integrated photonics technologies for the next generation of computing. They are developing sustainable energy sources, more efficient lighting, and other technologies to meet the word's growing energy needs, and are working in many more areas to better our lives, create more high-value jobs, and strengthen the economy," Arthurs said. "They see first-hand how important their work is toward those objectives, and they view the committee's support as a valuable boost."

Optics and photonics has achieved new recognition in policy documents over the past several months as well.

The technology was specified by the Department of Defense in its request for information this summer on focus areas for new proposed Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation, and was identified by the National Science Foundation last month as a key area of interest for research and education.

A report titled "Building a Brighter Future with Optics and Photonics" providing recommendations for research and capability opportunities was issued this spring by the Fast-Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics for the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council.

SPIE has expanded its long-held mission of advocating for the photonics industry through its role since 2013 as a Founding Sponsor of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). Through the NPI, founders, sponsors, and supporters work as a collaborative alliance to raise awareness of photonics and drive U.S. funding and investment in key photonics-driven fields .

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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