WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2013 — Dozens of photonics industry representatives from throughout the country visited congressional offices on Capitol Hill in late September as part of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI).
The NPI, a collaborative alliance among industry, academia and government, including the optics and photonics societies SPIE and The Optical Society, was formed to stress the importance of photonics in the US in economic progress and global technology leadership. The NPI message reinforces the National Academies’ call in its 2012 report on the field to focus attention and resources on the essential technologies of optics and photonics. Specific areas of photonics R&D emphasis are in health care, security, communications, manufacturing and energy.
SPIE reported that the 19 volunteers it sponsored said their visits to approximately 45 offices were overwhelmingly positive, but they found that photonics still has a long way to go to attain name familiarity, even among offices generally supportive of science and technology R&D.
A team including Michelle Stock, chair of the Michigan photonics cluster Mi-Light, said that messages about the number and value of jobs created by the photonics industry were very compelling, even at offices where the term “photonics” was not well understood.
Stock and her team pointed out the integral role of photonics in advanced manufacturing, and the need to support photonics R&D efforts in funding future National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) projects. The team also illustrated connections with energy initiatives and health and medicine, pointing out the role of photonics in sustainable power generation as well as in effective diagnosis and therapy for high-quality, affordable care.
Robert Lieberman, chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science and Technology Policy Committee, also found the message well-received, evidenced by penetrating questions about the specific needs of our community and a large number of requests for follow-up meetings.
“There is as growing realization in Washington that, to remain competitive in the modern world, the US must have a coherent policy focused on maintaining our nation’s technological leadership,” Lieberman said. “Last week’s visits brought awareness on Capitol Hill that enhancing photonics, ‘the electronics of the 21st century,’ must be a key part of this policy.”
SPIE volunteers and states represented included:
Alabama: Tommy Cantey (Optical Sciences Corp., Huntsville Electro-Optical Society)
California: Robert Lieberman (Intelligent Optical Systems Inc.), Tim Goodman (L-3 Sonoma EO), Gary Spiegel (Newport Corp.)
Colorado: Jeanette Domber (Ball Aerospace)
Connecticut: Martin Seifert (Nufern)
Florida: Marc Himel (Jenoptik AG), Richard Benson (Jenoptik Optical Systems Inc.), Joe Ferguson, Dan Justin
Massachusetts and New Hampshire: Susan Palmateer (BAE Systems)
Michigan: Michelle Stock (Mi-Light Michigan Photonics Cluster)
New Mexico: James McNally (New Mexico Optics Industry Association)
New Jersey and Arizona: Jason Mulliner (Edmund Optics)
New York: Ralph James (Brookhaven National Laboratory), Tom Battley (Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster), Christopher Cotton (Lumetrics), Rick Plympton (Optimax), John Bruning.
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