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Lasers & Sources

Harnessing Light 2 report aims to chart course for photonics' future

Stakeholders hope that the forthcoming study provides a shot in the arm for awareness and funding.
14 March 2012, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201203.03
Through an 18-month comment period, the Harnessing Light study committee has collected input in a wide range of settings from participants in the photonics industry. Town Hall meetings and panel discussions have taken place at major SPIE events and elsewhere. Now the committee is compiling its findings, and the study known for now as Harnessing Light 2 is expected to be made public in late spring 2012.

Erik Svedberg and Larry Goldberg talk in this video interview about the process of gathering input for the report and the potential outcomes from its release. Svedberg is the National Research Council staff officer in charge of the project, and Goldberg represents one of the project sponsors, the National Science Foundation.

The committee is focused on not only building on the success of the original 1998 Harnessing Light report (HL1) in establishing optics as an enabling technology impacting a wide range of disciplines, but also on identifying technological opportunities that have arisen from recent advances in optical science and how to translate progress in photonics innovation into competitiveness advantage, workforce needs, and manufacturing infrastructure.

However, much has changed since the work done by the "Committee on Optical Science and Engineering" in the mid-90s, including the infamous bubble that soured much of Wall Street on anything optical. The challenges are significant.

Building on the popular notion that the 21st century will be the century of the photon, the Photonics Vision report of European Union Technology Platform, Photonics21, envisioned advancements in photonics leading to many changes, including dramatically bolstered internet infrastructure, better manufacturing processes, more efficient green technologies and better healthcare. In September 2009, following the release of the first Strategic Research Agenda and Photonics in Europe Economic Impact report, the European Commission designated photonics as one of five key enabling technologies for the future prosperity of the European Union. Photonics21 has worked with European industry, government and other stakeholders to outline a photonics research strategy and identifying the measures needed to ensure that Europe's continued leadership in photonics.

Stakeholders in HL2 hope for a similar outcome from the forthcoming report.