CEIS awarded grant to fund national photonics roadmap

May 8, 2014

NIST program for Advanced Manufacturing awards grant to Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences

The National Institute of Standards and Technology through its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia Program (AMTech) has awarded $500,000 to the University of Rochester’s Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences (CEIS) to lead the development of a national roadmap for photonics.

CEIS will work with its partners and with the National Photonics Initiative (NPI) to forecast the introduction of new technologies and identify manufacturing challenges that, if solved, can strengthen the competitiveness of domestic photonics companies and expand photonics manufacturing to the United States.

The U.S. has been the world leader in developing photonics technologies, which include fiber optics, lasers, digital imaging and flat panel displays. However, the U.S.’s share of photonics manufacturing has dropped to less than 10% of photonics components sold worldwide. The roadmap to be developed under this program will identify key priorities and lay out a plan for addressing this.

According to the National Research Council, optics and photonics technologies are essential for our nation: they are used to fabricate integrated circuits that power all electronic devices, are central to modern defense systems and medical imaging technologies, and they enable a host of modern day products used in everyday life including the internet, flat panel displays, and smart phones.

“The roadmap will address critical gaps to increase our nation’s competitiveness in photonics manufacturing,” said Robert L. Clark, senior vice president for research at the University of Rochester and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Our Congressional delegation fully understands the importance of bringing photonics manufacturing back to the U.S., and I want to thank them for their leadership and persistent efforts in support of this initiative. We are excited to be able to lead this effort in partnership with industry and other key stakeholders.”

Photonics is one area of advanced manufacturing the AMTech program will be supporting. AMTech was designed to address the gap between research & development activities and the deployment of technological innovations in the domestic production of goods. This gap is economically damaging and it has been highlighted by the National Science and Technology Council, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and other bodies.

“The National Academies’ report, ‘Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation,’ shouted about the abysmal state of data on optics and photonics jobs and investment in the US. Roadmapping should help address this deficit and illuminate the enormous potential the field holds for world-changing innovation and jobs creation,” said SPIE CEO Dr. Eugene Arthurs. “The nation had sown seeds with R&D for decades. Let’s plan how best to harvest.”

Guided by the roadmap, the CEIS-led group of partners, the New York Photonics Manufacturing Initiative, will also lay the foundation for a national consortium devoted to advanced manufacturing in photonics.

“The University of Rochester and our partner organizations are honored to be given the task of organizing the development of a national technology roadmap for photonics manufacturing,” said Paul Ballentine, CEIS’ deputy director. “By working with domain experts across the country and by leveraging the considerable expertise in the Rochester region, we will help the industry identify key technical barriers that need to be overcome to strengthen photonics manufacturing in the U.S.”

Upstate New York has a long history in the field of optics and photonics. The University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics was the first in the U.S. and continues to train students and conduct research in the field. The University is also home to the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a center for the investigation of the interaction of intense radiation with matter. Rochester also saw the foundation of key companies in the field, such as Kodak, Bausch and Lomb and Xerox.

The region does not only have its heritage to draw upon; companies and institutions in the area are actively involved in research and manufacturing in photonics and will also be partnering the initiative. CEIS’ partners in the initiative include the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Imaging Science and New York Photonics, an industry association. More than 100 companies in the optics and photonics industry in the Finger Lakes Region employ 24,000 people.

“This is an important opportunity to convene photonics industry clusters from around the country and their manufacturing affiliates,” said Tom Battley, executive director of New York Photonics. “It will strengthen the nation’s optics, photonics and imaging industry.”

“RIT has a long history of education and research in the fields of Imaging, Photonics, and Microelectronics and we are pleased to contribute to this initiative,” said Michael Richardson, distinguished researcher at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “We see our participation on this program as an avenue to provide technical expertise to the AMTech program in order to understand the challenges impeding the growth of manufacturing companies in the optics, photonics and imaging marketplace.”

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