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3 Questions Interview

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2013
The first chair of Mi-Light, the Michigan Photonics Industry Cluster, Dr. Michelle L. Stock is currently a business development and marketing services consultant with a focus on the ultrafast laser market. After graduating from the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science at the University of Michigan, Stock worked for ultrafast fiber laser specialist IMRA America before co-founding Arbor Photonics, a leader in large-mode-area high-brightness optical fiber, which was recently acquired by nLight. Photonics Spectra recently asked her three questions about her work.

Q: What are you working on?

A: Mi-Light is a very new entity, created to promote photonics as a significant industry in Michigan. It was incorporated at the end of 2012; therefore, much of the work I do as the chairperson is focused on establishing Mi-Light as an organization. This means spending time working closely with Mi-Light’s officers and board, and communicating with our stakeholders, including our 20 member companies and academic institutions; local economic development organizations such as Ann Arbor SPARK; and the statewide economic development organization, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Mi-Light won a grant from the MEDC in 2012, matched by funds from founding sponsors, to support its first endeavors.

Mi-Light just formally launched with its first annual meeting in April of this year, at which time we elected our board and determined our first priorities. I am currently working with Mi-Light’s members to launch our first initiatives and solidify our plans for this year.

Q: What are the implications of the work for the industry or society?

A: Optics and photonics are strategic fields and offer innovative solutions in every sector of commercial and defense activity. It is also evident that clusters are a driving economic force for the state, region and nation. Michigan has an outstanding innovation chain in photonics that includes world-class fundamental and applied research institutions and universities, product development and manufacturing capabilities, and commercialization and marketing expertise. Mi-Light’s stakeholders recognize that it is necessary to build on the ad-hoc nature of the relationships between these resources in Michigan to deliver the competitive advantage necessary to play in a global market. By forming as a cluster here in Michigan, Mi-Light can promote Michigan’s already healthy but relatively unknown ecosystem, including companies running the gamut of the optics and photonics supply chain from materials (Dow Corning) through end users (auto companies), and everything in between.

By connecting and coordinating Michigan’s photonics assets, and by collaborating with other industry groups and public-private partnerships, Mi-Light will be able to achieve its mission to leverage our strong industrial and academic capabilities and grow our highly competent talent pool in order to expand the industry, attract funding, create jobs and stimulate photonics innovation in Michigan.

Q: What’s next for that work?

A: Through its first three working committees, Mi-Light has started to address outreach, define its Web presence, and develop education and workforce development objectives. Because it is an all-volunteer group, Mi-Light must engage its members in these key activities, [which are] necessary for the association’s evolution. The primary goals for this year include increasing our visibility and membership; developing relationships with other statewide, national and international organizations; and establishing scholarships and an endowment for photonics education programs in Michigan. I am looking forward to a very exciting year for Mi-Light.


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