Photonics in the West

SPIE President Paul McManamon reports in on Photonics West 2006, and addresses a recent U.S. National Academies report.
01 April 2006
Paul McManamon
I write this letter just back from Photonics West -- what a great success this event was! Record numbers, a new exhibit hall, and lots of positive feedback were all high points of the symposium and exhibition.
There were a total of 16,500 attendees at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center for Photonics West. And between the Biomedical Optics Symposium Exhibition, with 130 companies, and the Photonics West Exhibition, there were a record number of exhibiting companies -- 1090 to be exact. This year debuted the new South Hall, which was the home for more than 300 exhibiting organizations. With so many of these companies in South Hall being newer and smaller, this gave the new building a distinct and positive character. Many small companies add up to substantial innovation. South Hall was certainly buzzing with positive activity each time I visited it.
Of course, the exhibition is much more than the facility. The exhibitors gave us overwhelmingly positive feedback about their experience this year at Photonics West. Part of this experience is the number of contacts made and traffic seen, but another important aspect is behind-the-scenes work by SPIE staff.
Highlights of the four technical symposia, which are the heart of Photonics West, are too many to name. From photodynamic therapy to treat age-related macular degeneration, to supercontinuum in silica nanowires, to chip-based modulators using silicon CMOS, the week was packed with presentations of breakthrough research.
No matter what the global economic picture, SPIE will always be here to provide the conference experience and peer-to-peer networking that are so fundamental to the process of bringing ideas from discovery to implementation.
Gathering Storm
There is one more subject I would like to address. The National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in the United States recently published the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The report addresses crises that are facing the United States in developing and maintaining a vital economy based on technical innovation.
The report expresses concerns that the scientific and technical components of the U.S. economy are weakening and noted the need for high- quality jobs and the need for environmentally friendly renewable energy as major challenges. Many nations are facing similar challenges as they look for ways to generate and sustain economic growth in an increasingly flatter world.
In the 1950s, Sputnik energized global interest in engineering and science, drawing the world's brightest young talent to pursue careers in technical fields. Many of the problems facing the world today will require technical solutions. The call to find alternative energy sources, manage climate changes, and prevent pandemics will be the Sputnik of the next generation.
The National Academies are recommending significant measures in education, research, and economic policy, and they are obtaining strong bipartisan political support. This is a development everyone in the world should encourage. I urge everyone to read this report.

Report In
You can read the entire report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future from the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy online.
The report is available on the National Academies Press website at

Paul McManamon, 2006 SPIE President

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