The National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance of top scientific societies uniting industry and academia to raise awareness of photonics, applauded today’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) issued by the US Department of Defense (DOD), through the US Air Force Research Laboratory, calling for concept papers for the establishment of an Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI).
In October, President Obama announced his administration’s intent to form an IP-IMI, the 6th institute under his National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The FOA reaffirms this commitment with DOD investing $110 million, matched by $110 million or more in investment from industry, academia and/or state and local government, to the winning proposal. The IP-IMI will be the largest federal investment to-date.
Optics and photonics are the science and application of light. Specifically, photonics generates, controls and detects light to advance robotics, manufacturing, medical imaging, next-generation displays, defence technologies, biometric security, image processing, communications, astronomy and much more.
Integrated photonics circuits incorporate multiple miniature optical structures to manipulate and control beams of light in the same way that integrated electronic circuits control electrons in order to encode, transmit and decode information. A major goal for the IP-IMI will be to develop low-cost, high-volume, manufacturing methods to interface electronic integrated circuits (ICs) with integrated photonic devices.
According to the FOA, the US Government intends to support the establishment of an IP-IMI that will advance the state-of-the-art in the design, manufacture, testing, assembly and packaging of complex photonic ICs that combine a variety of photonic and electronic components to achieve functionality.
This end-to-end integrated photonics manufacturing innovation “ecosystem” in the US will include: integrated design tools for efficient simulation and design of integrated photonic circuits; domestic photonic device fabrication foundry access; automated packaging, assembly and test of integrated photonic circuits; and workforce development.
Activities under the IP-IMI will enable universities and small-to-medium enterprises to participate in the integrated photonics revolution. This IMI will bring government, industry and academia together with the goal of organising the current fragmented domestic capabilities in integrated photonic technology and better position the US, relative to global competition.
Issuance of the FOA follows a DOD Request for Information (RFI) published in June that sought responses from experts on key technologies, including optics and photonics, being considered to serve as the basis for a new institute under the NNMI. Coordinated by the NPI in partnership with founding sponsor societies The Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, dozens of experts within the national photonics community organised to answer DOD’s information request and provide numerous, thoughtful and compelling responses.
The FOA details a two-step process for the IP-IMI:
Step 1 - Concept papers due no later than 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Friday, 19 December 2014; and,
Step 2 - Offerors whose concept papers meet the Government’s needs will receive invitations sent by 30 January 2015 to submit full proposals due no later than 3:00 p.m. EST on 31 March 2015.
The Government will hold a Proposers Day for the solicitation on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at the Artisphere Spectrum Theater in Arlington, Virginia (US). The purpose of the Proposers Day is to familiarise potential proposers with the concept and vision for the IP-IMI and the associated technology needs.