The American Physical Society (APS), IEEE Photonics Society, Laser Institute of America (LIA), Optical Society of America (OSA), Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA) and SPIE today announced the launch of the US National Photonics Initiative (NPI), a collaborative alliance seeking to unite industry, academia and government experts to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security.
“Life without photonics is almost unimaginable. From the moment you wake up to the alarm on your smart phone, to swiping your credit card to pay for coffee, to logging into your computer and connecting with the world through the Internet, photonics makes it possible,” said Elizabeth Rogan, Chief Executive Officer of the OSA. “The NPI will work to 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 US National Research Council (NRC) 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 US jobs and companies, to overseas markets.
In 2012, the NRC released the report “Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation,” which called for a national photonics initiative to regain US leadership in key photonics-driven fields. In response to that call, the NPI was established to: raise awareness about photonics and the impact of photonics on our everyday lives; increase collaboration and coordination among US industry, government and academia to advance photonics-driven fields; and drive US funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security.
“The NPI offers an opportunity for us to show how critical it is for federally funded research to flourish in this country,” said Kate Kirby, Executive Officer of the APS. “So many of the technologies that we use have come from the results of basic research funded by the federal government.”
As part of the NPI 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: advanced manufacturing; communications and information technology (IT); defence and national security; health and medicine; and energy. New opportunities in these fields, such as three-dimensional (3D) printing, more efficient solar power, improved nuclear-threat identification, more accurate cancer detection and the growth of Internet speeds and capacity, offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades.
In order to capitalise on new opportunities and regain global leadership and economic prosperity, the white paper “Lighting the Path to a Competitive, Secure Future” also provides key recommendations to the US government that apply across all five of these fields:
• Drive funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security: advanced manufacturing, defence, energy, health and medicine, IT and communications.
• Develop federal programs that encourage greater collaboration between US industry and academia to better support the research and development (R&D) of next-generation photonics 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 ultra-short-pulse laser material 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 fulfilment of these recommendations will position the US as a global leader in photonics R&D, 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 Peter Baker, executive director of the LIA.
For more on the National Photonics Initiative, read Matt Weed's blog "The Call for a National Photonics Initiative."