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National Photonics Initiative (NPI)

The report that got it all going

In August 2012, the National Research Council of the National Academies released its highly anticipated report "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation," updating its 1998 "Harnessing Light" study. The report assessed the current state of optics, photonics, and optical engineering in the United States, prioritized research grand-challenge questions to fill technological gaps, and recommended actions to support global leadership in photonics-driven industry.

Following one of the report's key recommendations, SPIE and four other photonics and optics societies launched the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), a collaborative alliance among industry, academia, and government. The coalition of societies includes Founding Sponsors SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and The Optical Society (OSA) and Sponsors the American Physical Society (APS), the IEEE Photonics Society, and the Laser Institute of America (LIA).

Overall, NPI's Goals are:

  • raise awareness of photonics and the impact of photonics in our everyday lives
  • increase cooperation and coordination among US industry, government and academia to advance photonics-driven fields
  • drive US funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US economic competitiveness and national security

Click here to visit the NPI website.

Harnessing Light II co-chairsHarnessing Light II committee co-chairs (at left) Alan Willner and Paul McManamon led the first public discussion following release of the committee's findings in August 2012. Speakers at the San Diego launch also included Study Director Erik Svedberg, SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs and SPIE Industry and Market Strategist Stephen Anderson.

For more background on the report, read commentary from committee members and other project leaders, access slides from the launch presentation and watch video interviews from 

National Photonics InitiativeYour objective: Help get the word out!

Become a spokesperson for photonics in your online network or in your community by sharing news about the launch of the NPI and facts about the importance of photonics in our everyday lives:

  • Post about the NPI on your Facebook page and link to the NPI website:

  • Tweet about the NPI and link to the NPI website. Use #NPI or #NationalPhotonicsInitiative.

  • Draft and submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Clarify or support contentions made in a previously published article, or tie to an article about a photonics technology and frame the letter as a "did you know" piece.

  • Draft and submit an op-ed to your local newspaper. Express  your opinion on a timely issue of local interest (e.g., the economy, jobs, technology development, research findings).

  • Invite members of Congress to attend a photonics-focused event at your company or university or in your district.

  • Attend a town hall meeting hosted by your member of Congress and ask about his or her plan for investing in America through photonics.

  • Take NPI materials (see links below) to meetings on Capitol Hill to educate members about the initiative and photonics.

Latest NPI News

Read the June 2015 National Photonics Initiative newsletter

6 November 2014 National Photonics Initiative (NPI) Applauds Federal Competition to Create an Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI): President Obama announced his administration’s intent to expand his National Network for Manufacturing Innovation making the IP-MI the largest federal investment. 

8 October 2014 Optical Society of Southern California holds a successful National Photonics Initiative Event: With 170 attendees, the successful event included an NPI Panel with panelists including Dr. Robert Lieberman, President of Lumoptix and Vice President of SPIE; Dr. Thomas Baer, Stanford Photonics Research Center and OSA Past President, NPI Steering Committee Chair;  Mr. Gary Spiegel, SPIE Secretary/Treasurer and retired Senior EVP of Newport Corp.; Prof. Bruce Tromberg, UC Irvine Beckman Laser Institute; with Special Guests: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and other elected officials.

3 October 2014 President Obama announces $200 million in public-private investment for integrated photonics manufacturing facility: President Barack Obama announced a new competition to award more than $200 million in public and private investment to create an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute. This announcement of the largest federal investment to date validates what the US photonics industry has known and advocated for a long time: photonics technologies has the potential to solve many of today's challenges while creating jobs, boosting our economy, and protecting national security.

30 September 2014 US Photonics Industry Leaders Commit Upwards of $30M to Support the President’s BRAIN Initiative: Over the next three years, NPI members commit to investing in optics and photonics technology.

22 July 2014 NSF Seeks Innovative Optics and Photonics Proposals: In the interest of maintaining the US as a leader of scientific innovation, the NSF is calling for optics and photonics research proposals relevant to Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, or Divisions in the Directorates for Engineering.

2 June 2014 Letter to the White House and DOD by Representatives Slaughter, Tonko, Mica, Grijalava, Esty, Barber and Gibson calling for a photonics NNMI: Representatives offer optics and photonics as essential technologies to US livelihood.

2 June 2014 NPI Applauds the Department of Defense Request for Information in Photonics Support of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation: NPI had been pushing for DoD’s request for information to include photonics as key foundational element to the new Institute for Manufacturing Innovation.

18 April 2014 NPI Commends Fast-Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics Recommendations: Fast-Track Action Commitee on Optics and Photonics outlines opportunities for interagency cooperation and federal investment in optics and photonics resarch; recommendations are divided as research opportunties and capability opportunities.

Read more articles on the NPI website:

 Resources and materials

Fast-Track Aciton Committee on Optics and Photonics

Fast-Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics (PDF 1,287 KB)

Managing a Successful Congressional Visit

How-To toolkit on guiding a successful Congressional visit (PDF 1MB)

NPI launch slides

NPI launch webinar slides (PDF 598 KB)

NPI one-pager

NPI one-page flyer (PDF 165 KB)

NPI Technology Road Map for the BRAIN Initiative

NPI Technology Road Map for the BRAIN Initiative (PDF 815 KB)


NPI report: "Lighting the Path" (PDF 3 MB)

Summary: Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies

Summary: "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation" (PDF 3 MB)

NA report: Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies

National Academies' report "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation"

NPI - photonics IMI fact sheet

NPI - photonics fact sheet

Report to the President -

Report to the President - "Accelerating U.S. Advanced Manufacturing"

NPI badge

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Show your support for the National Photonics Initiative! Place an NPI web badge on your organization's website, blog, printed materials, or in your email signature. Please link to the NPI website:

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'I use optics and photonics ...'

Researchers show in this brief video (1:38) how they use optics and photonics to kill cancer, treat brain disorders, make computers run faster, convert cell phones into sophisticated wireless diagnostic devices, identify concealed explosives, and more (above, Naomi Halas of Rice University).



Volunteers speak out for photonics

Backers of the National Photonics Initiative have been busy all across the country, with town hall meetings, presentations, and other activities in support of photonics.

volunteers for NPI fly-in

volunteers for SET Congressional Visits Day

NPI briefing in Washington, D.C.