Award to New York-led Project of $110 Million for Manufacturing Institute ‘a Win’ for the Whole Photonics Community, Say SPIE Leaders

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A multi-partner project submitted by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY) has been identified as the winner of a $110 million matching grant in Department of Defense funding to build a new Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation. The award is seen by industry leaders including SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, as an important step toward ensuring continued economic vitality and global technology advancement.

This announcement is a very energizing event for our photonics community.

The award to a multi-partner consortium led by the State University of New York (SUNY) of a $110 matching grant to establish an Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI) is an important milestone for the whole community, said leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The award was announced this morning in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. A formal announcement is expected from Washington, D.C., early next week.

SPIE leaders said the award marks another important step forward in recognition for photonics technologies and their role in ensuring economic vitality and global technology leadership for the USA.

“This announcement occurring during the United Nations-decreed International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a very energizing event for our national photonics community,” said Jim McNally, chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy committee. “National Photonics Initiative (NPI) and other advocacy activities intended to raise awareness among national, state, and local policy leaders and decision makers have produced a tangible outcome.”

Dr. McNally noted that the establishment of a photonics-driven institute is a significant win for the industry as well as good for society and the economy.

“Having photonics as a key part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) adds to the recognition of our light-based science and technologies for their critical importance to our global competiveness and for contributions that significantly improve quality of life,” he said.

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs noted that the competition among the three projects accepted in January for consideration has provided a singular opportunity for photonics industry leaders across the county to capture the attention of policy and decision makers in the federal funding sphere.

“We who work in photonics on a daily basis already know how powerful and important our technologies are in advancing science, improving how we live, and in fueling the economy and jobs growth,” Dr. Arthurs said. “But the opportunity to advocate for the establishment of a new photonics manufacturing institute followed by the competition for this impressive level of funding have helped gain new recognition for our industry’s research and development leaders. The wide range of life-enhancing, even sometimes life-saving, capabilities of light-based science and technology are being recognized and understood by important new partners at the highest levels of government strategy and funding direction.”

SPIE is a Founding Partner of the IYL 2015 observance as well as a Founding Sponsor of the NPI, a collaborative alliance in the U.S. among industry, academia, government, and not-for-profit societies. The NPI was launched in 2013 to raise awareness of photonics, increase collaboration throughout the photonics community, and drive U.S. funding and investment.

“Our members and partners have worked hard to communicate the benefits of photonics, in enabling lifesaving medical treatments and diagnostics, global communications, space exploration, 3D printing, sustainable energy and lighting in developing and developed nations, and more secure communities,” Arthurs said. “We are gratified that policy makers and funding organizations have seen fit to support and enable further photonics advances with the establishment of the IP-IMI.”

With a pledge for DOD matching funds up to $110 million, the IP-IMI is the largest of several new manufacturing institutes (IMIs) being established by the Obama Administration to develop high-tech jobs in the U.S., according to a White House fact sheet. It is intended to advance the state of the art in the design, manufacture, testing, assembly, and packaging of complex photonic integrated circuits that combine a variety of photonic and electronic components to achieve functionality.

The New York proposal was submitted by the SUNY Research Foundation on behalf of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Arizona, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other academic and industry partners and stakeholders from California, New York, and Massachusetts.

The proposal noted that integrated photonics manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the carrying capacity of internet networks to transmit more data at faster speeds; enhance medical technology; reduce the cost of sequencing the human genome; and improve battlefield imaging and radar capabilities for national defense. The principal investigator is professor Michael Liehr of the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.

Other finalist teams in the three-way competition for the matching funds were led by the University of Central Florida, with team members including more than 55 industry partners and 5 key research universities (UCF, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Clemson University, and the University of Illinois); and by the University of Southern California, with support from institutes across California plus Arizona State University, the University of New Mexico, and Ohio State University.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014. http://www.spie.org

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