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House passage of high-tech manufacturing bill is move toward stronger economy, say SPIE leaders

Bipartisan support carries Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act

18 September 2014

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- Bipartisan passage this week by the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill designed to stimulate development and commercialization of new technologies and promote growth of high-value jobs is being praised by leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The bill, the Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act, now moves to the full Senate for a vote. The bill's authors have said they are optimistic that it will win passage there as well this year, and will be signed into law by the President.

RAMI (S. 1468 and H.R. 2996) was introduced by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Representatives Tom Reed (R-New York) and Joe Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). The bill would authorize the Secretary of Commerce to establish manufacturing institutes through a Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NMI).

The institutes -- known as Innovation Manufacturing Institutes (IMIs) -- would function in public-private partnerships including the federal government, local governments, universities, research institutes, and industry to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications. The partnerships would facilitate bridging the gap between basic research performed at U.S. universities and research laboratories, and product development by U.S. manufacturers.

"We are pleased with the bipartisan leadership evidenced with the passage of the RAMI bill, " said James McNally, chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy committee. "This action supports and aligns with the continued commitment of SPIE, driven by its membership, to advocate for photonics R&D and job creation."

The bill's acknowledgement that optics and photonics are pervasive in our everyday lives is important as well, McNally said. "Light-based innovations and products can provide significant improved quality of life throughout the world in health care, energy efficiency, lighting, and clean water. Enactment of this bill would position U.S. manufacturing consortiums at the forefront of providing these innovative products to the world, while creating high-quality domestic manufacturing jobs."

Inclusion of optics and photonics sections in the bill has been advocated by SPIE and other organizations working through the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), a collaborative alliance seeking to raise awareness of photonics and drive U.S. funding and investment in key photonics-driven fields. SPIE, in its role as a Founding Sponsor of the NPI, continues to work toward its long-held mission of advocating for the photonics industry, noted SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

"Our constituents see first-hand how important their work is in enabling inventions that meet society's many needs, while creating new jobs and generating new revenue," Arthurs said. "Their research, reported through SPIE events and publications, shows the technology's vast potential. The products and systems we see at SPIE's exhibitions are evidence that the technology is already a sizable piece of the economy."

Photonics scientists, researchers, engineers, and technicians are responsible for developing light-based technologies for earlier and better diagnosis, treatment, or monitoring of conditions such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and epilepsy, Arthurs said. "Their work in integrated photonics will enable the next generation of computing and further evolution of the internet -- which exists and functions because of photonics. They are developing sustainable energy sources, more efficient lighting, and other technologies to meet the world's growing energy needs. In short, photonics is improving our lives and strengthening the economy in the process."

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 more than 235,000 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 over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.

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