Washington Launches Photonics Manufacturing Initiative

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The White House today announced a $220 million competition to create an integrated photonics manufacturing institute.

The Department of Defense will award $110 million in federal money, to be matched by at least $110 million in private investment, after selecting a winning proposal for a new Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI). The facility would be a “teaching factory” providing foundry access, integrated design tools, automated packaging, assembly, testing and workforce development.

In a statement, the White House singled out the potential of integrated photonics technologies to increase the carrying capacity of Internet networks, to advance imaging and radar for defense purposes and to enable noninvasive biosensing applications. Integrated photonics could also bring the cost of genetic sequencing down from about $5,000 to $1,000, the White House said.

Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society (OSA), said the announcement was a “significant success not only for our community but also for the future of scientific research and development. … Photonics is receiving the recognition it deserves and American manufacturing stands to benefit as a result.”

“An integrated photonics manufacturing institute will greatly help to strengthen U.S. leadership and competitiveness in photonics, ensuring a robust supply chain that will pay dividends across a variety of sectors of the U.S. economy,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

Dr. Tom Baer, chairman of the National Photonics Initiative steering committee, called the announcement “the highest possible endorsement and acknowledgment of the critical role that the U.S. photonics industry will play in solving many of the present-day challenges, creating U.S. jobs, boosting the economy and enhancing national security.”

The Defense Department in June solicited feedback on the creation of two new manufacturing institutes, listing photonics among six technology focus areas. Professional groups involved in the National Photonics Initiative conducted outreach activities to encourage participation.

The organization recently released a white paper calling for investments in infrastructure to support a vertically integrated facility for prototyping and advanced manufacturing that would bring together end-users and material scientists, device engineers, system architects and advanced manufacturing experts.

Meanwhile, a bill that urges investment in photonics and optics — among several other technologies — is working its way through the Legislature. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act was approved Sept. 15 by the House of Representatives and is now before the Senate for consideration.

For more information on the manufacturing initiative, visit

Published: October 2014
integrated photonics
Integrated photonics is a field of study and technology that involves the integration of optical components, such as lasers, modulators, detectors, and waveguides, on a single chip or substrate. The goal of integrated photonics is to miniaturize and consolidate optical elements in a manner similar to the integration of electronic components on a microchip in traditional integrated circuits. Key aspects of integrated photonics include: Miniaturization: Integrated photonics aims to reduce the...
AmericasBusinessElizabeth RoganEugene ArthursgovernmentIMIintegrated photonicsNational Photonics InitiativeOSAResearch & TechnologySPIEThe Optical SocietyTom BaerInstitute for Manufacturing Innovationlight speed

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