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Photonics Spectra
Since 1967, Photonics Spectra magazine has defined the science and industry of photonics, providing both technical and practical information for every aspect of the global industry and promoting an international dialogue among the engineers, scientists and end users who develop, commercialize and buy photonics products. Stay current with a FREE subscription to the digital or print edition.

Latest Issue
Feb 2021

Transformational change is relative

DANIEL MCCARTHY, SENIOR EDITORThose of us in the media hear about transformational change a lot. It’s a useful claim that gets people’s attention in the busy marketplace of ideas. But the term can get a little threadbare — both from overuse and from inevitable comparisons with the actual transformative changes that we’ve all personally endured over the past 12 months.

Yet, I’m writing this in the wake of two momentous acquisitions that occurred in as many weeks during the month of January. The first is Teledyne Technologies’ acquisition of FLIR Systems in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $8 billion. The second is Lumentum’s purchase of Coherent in a transaction worth $5.7 billion. We cover both transactions in this month’s “Light Speed” section and will share updates online at

All four of the companies involved in these transactions represent bellwethers in their respective sectors, making either acquisition enough to redefine the photonics industry’s competitive landscape. Together, their ripples will spread through the imaging and laser sectors to create waves in optics, spectroscopy, and a dozen or more end markets for photonics technologies.

It would be hard to argue that these transactions signify anything other than a transformative change. I certainly won’t pick up that gauntlet.

Something worth remembering, however, is that transformative change is always unfolding in this industry — only more slowly or on a smaller scale. The acquisitions in question are momentous, in part because of the decades of incremental innovations and advancements that made the four companies involved the bellwethers that they are.

If we in the media get a little jaded by the term “transformational change,” it’s because we recognize that it momentarily focuses the spotlight on one portion of a very large and active stage. In other words, transformational change is a relative term in this industry.

A case in point appears on page 51 of this issue, where, in conjunction with SPIE, we announce 30 finalists for the 2021 Prism Awards. Selected from more than 140 candidates, the finalists represent the most significant advancements made in 10 categories: vision technology, manufacturing, quality control, quantum, safety and security, software, smart sensing, transportation, medical devices, and the life sciences.

Each winner, indeed each finalist, is a candidate for catalyzing some future transformational change. This change may unfold more slowly or on a smaller scale than an industry megamerger. Collectively, however, the Prism Awards finalists represent the vanguard of a legion of smaller but highly innovative businesses, all of them advancing photonics technology and troubleshooting its application each day.

Transformational change is practically the hallmark of the photonics industry.

Mike Wheeler
As editor-in-chief, Michael Wheeler oversees Photonics Media's editorial operations — spanning print, web, and podcasts. He also serves as editor of Vision Spectra, chronicling advancements in the rapidly expanding machine vision/inspection sector.
Dan McCarthy
Senior editor Dan McCarthy manages editorial content and production for Photonics Spectra. An award-winning writer and editor, he has communicated the progress and practical value of advanced technologies for over two decades.
Doug Farmer
Senior Editor Douglas Farmer has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, winning awards for health and education reporting. He has a master's degree in journalism from Ball State University. He is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics magazines.
Sarah Weiler
As Webinar & Social Media Coordinator, Sarah Weiler organizes and produces all Photonics Media webinars and manages social media content. With a background in writing and editing, she also contributes to the print publications.
Valerie Coffey
Science writer Valerie C. Coffey holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in astronomy. She has covered optics, photonics, physics, and astronomy for a variety of industry and academic publications since 2000.
Hank Hogan
Contributing Editor Hank Hogan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor industry and now writes about science and technology.
Marie Freebody
Contributing Editor Marie Freebody is a freelance science and technology journalist with a master’s degree in physics and a concentration in nuclear astrophysics from the University of Surrey in England.
Farooq Ahmed
Farooq Ahmed has covered the physical and biological sciences for over a decade. He has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Columbia University.
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