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US photonics societies launch national initiative

BioPhotonics
Jul 2013
The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) – an alliance seeking to unite experts from industry, academia and the government to advance photonics R&D, grow the US economy and improve national security – was launched in late May by a partnership of photonics societies: The American Physical Society, IEEE Photonics Society, Laser Institute of America (LIA), The Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE.

“Life without photonics is almost unimaginable,” said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan, adding that the initiative will “advance photonics in the areas that are most critical to the US, like improving the economy, creating jobs, saving lives and sparking innovation for future generations.”

In 1998, the National Research Council released the report Harnessing Light, which presented a comprehensive overview of the potential impact of photonics on major industry sectors. In response, several worldwide economies moved to advance their already strong photonics industries. The US, however, did not develop a cohesive strategy. As a result, the US lost its competitive advantage in a number of cutting-edge technologies as well as thousands of jobs and companies to overseas markets.

In 2012, the National Research Council released Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation, which called for a national photonics initiative to regain US leadership in key photonics-driven fields. The NPI was established in response to that call.

As part of the effort, more than 100 experts from industry, academia and government collaborated to draft a white paper detailing recommendations to guide funding and investment in five key photonics-driven fields, including health and medicine. New opportunities such as more accurate cancer detection offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades.

To capitalize on new opportunities and to regain global leadership and economic prosperity, the white paper also provides key recommendations to the US government that apply across all five of the fields:

• Drive funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security – advanced manufacturing, defense, energy, health and medicine, information technology and communications.

• Develop federal programs that encourage greater collaboration between US industry and academia to better support the research and development of next-generation photonic technologies.

• Increase investment in education and job training programs to reduce the shortage of technically skilled workers needed to fill the growing number of photonics-based positions.

• Expand federal investments supporting university and industry collaborative research to develop new manufacturing methods that incorporate photonics, such as additive manufacturing and ultrashort-pulse laser materials processing.

• Collaborate with US industry to review international trade practices impeding free trade, and the current US criteria restricting the sale of certain photonic technologies overseas.

The NPI maintains that fulfillment of these recommendations will position the US as a global leader in photonics research and development, and will grow the US economy and add jobs at home.

“Our objective is to direct funding intelligently to research, implementation, and education and training, with the ultimate goal of restoring US competitiveness, thereby improving our security, our economy and our quality of life,” said LIA Executive Director Peter Baker.

For the complete white paper and for more information about the NPI, visit www.lightourfuture.org.


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