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SPIE Professional July 2013

Sail with a rising tide: Support the NPI

SPIE President's Letter

By William Arnold

SPIE President William Arnold

Photonics is one of the key technology enablers for the future of our society. So many innovations build on the fantastic success of photonics.

Mobile devices enable us to communicate and share information via satellite and the Internet; medical imaging instruments  can detect the most serious diseases; remote sensing of the environment helps manage the world’s vast but endangered resources; and great astronomical telescopes inform us of the beginnings of the universe and the balance of mass, dark energy, and dark matter.

Emerging fields such as biophotonics and metamaterials promise great breakthroughs in medicine and new materials for optics and electronics.

Yet the photonics community does not have the visibility and leverage of some much lower-impact communities.

In 2012, a U.S. National Research Council report advanced the idea of a photonics initiative as part of a National Academies’ report, “Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation.” The committee that wrote the report was led by SPIE Fellow and past President Paul McManamon and SPIE Fellow Alan Willner.

Willner, McManamon to be honored with SPIE award

Now a coalition of 100 community members has drafted a white paper with recommendations for the formation of this initiative. The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) was launched in May and is being developed to increase collaboration and coordination among U.S. industry, government, and academia and to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining competitiveness and national security.

For their work in facilitating this timely and important achievement, I will present the 2013 SPIE President’s Award to Dr. McManamon and Dr. Willner at the SPIE Optics + Photonics meeting at San Diego in August.

How the National Photonics Initiative can help you

What’s in it for you? How will the NPI help your organization succeed?

logo for National Photonics InitiativeMany organizations, whether small, medium, or large, established or startup, single proprietor, university research spin off, corporate subsidiary, or public corporation, are striving to bring innovative photonics technologies to market. Each obstacle they face may seem unrelated. Indeed, each organization typically brings its own issues to the attention of a member of Congress or state legislator on its own. These issues may include:

  • Outdated export regulations
  • Shortage of skilled technicians in the U.S. workforce
  • Need for IP protection
  • Lack of data on the size of the industry
  • Lack of name recognition for “photonics,” particularly in Congress and state legislatures
  • Competition with other technologies for limited funding
  • Lack of awareness in other industries as to how photonics might solve their challenges.
  • However, they are related, and each one affects the overall health of the industry.
NPI will amplify many voices for photonics

The NPI supports individual industry communications with legislators and acts as an advocate for the industry to amplify the voices of the many. It adds value by:

  • Illustrating — in terms of jobs and revenue dollars — the true size of the impact of the technology and the impact of the obstacles the photonics industry faces
  • Increasing visibility for the value of interdisciplinary connections
  • Seeking to create a conduit via a Congressional photonics caucus for industry to provide policy makers with useful information about industry challenges and which technologies need to be developed in order to meet economic, security, educational, healthcare, and other national objectives.

logo for Photonics 21The Photonics21 model works in Europe by giving industry a direct voice with policy makers and enabling the industry to help guide funding directions. The NPI is different in many ways but would enable a similar connection in a model that fits the U.S.

We hope that in the years to come the word photonics will become as familiar as electronics to consumers and policy makers.

The NPI is our community’s attempt to build awareness of our past successes and future possibilities.

Congratulations to Paul and Alan and all the others who have worked on launching this new initiative. Please give them your support.

William H. Arnold
2013 SPIE President

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

To receive a print copy of SPIE Professional, the SPIE member magazine, become an SPIE member.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201307.01

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