08 November 2013

NPI supporters make powerful new friends for photonics

The photonics industry has been particularly busy making new friends in the U.S. Congress during the past several months, energized by the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an industry-driven campaign to guide photonics research and funding.

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to show your support.
Immediately following its launch in May by founding sponsors SPIE and OSA and co-sponsors the Laser Institute of America, the IEEE Photonics Society and the American Physical Society, NPI supporters got busy.

In Florida, the NPI partnered with the University of Central Florida to host Rep. John Mica for a briefing and tour of CREOL, the university’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers. Mica subsequently authored an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel in which he wrote, “Photonics offers great prospects for world-class firms and middle-class jobs in Florida and beyond. Let's stay laser-focused on making photonics a national priority.”

The NPI and the University of Arizona hosted Rep. Ron Barber for a tour of UA’s College of Optical Sciences. Barber later wrote in an op-ed published in Inside Tucson Business, “New opportunities arising from optics and photonics offer the potential for even more jobs and money in our economy over the next few decades including new optical capabilities that will be vital for supporting the continued growth of the Internet, high-efficiency lighting, genome mapping, medical devices and solar power.”

The NPI worked with the New York Photonics Cluster to honor Rep. Louise Slaughter with an achievement award for her continued dedication to the local photonics industry, at an event highlighting the economic importance of optics and photonics to Rochester and the state of New York. Slaughter followed up with an op-ed for The Hill, saying, “As we look for ways to keep America competitive in this new century, the OPID (optics, photonics, imaging and display) industry and the research that supports it is a vital asset that the United States must nurture and protect.”

Rep. Mike Honda visited Directed Light, Inc., in San Jose, California, for a briefing about photonics and a tour of the company. Reflecting on what he learned, Honda said, “My tour of Directed Light highlighted how photonics enables our day-to-day lives, and I saw first-hand the ways in which optics and photonics support our local economy. We must ensure U.S. workers receive the training they need to have careers in this important, expanding industry.”

Volunteers make a difference!
A fly-in in September brought
25 individual to Washington,
D.C., to meet with members
of Congress.
In early September, members of the five photonics societies leading efforts to promote the NPI were invited to address the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Fast Track Action Committee, an interagency committee formed to identify research opportunities and challenges in optics and photonics.

In mid-September, nearly 25 individuals representing the NPI flew to Washington to meet with their members of Congress about the importance of photonics in our everyday lives. Participants attended 48 meetings with House and Senate offices, including impromptu member meetings with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Scott Peters and Eric Swalwell of California, and Rep. John Larson of Connecticut; and scheduled member meetings with New York’s Slaughter and Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey.

Your role

To really have an impact, more individuals from the community need to act on behalf of the NPI. See what you can do:

  • Post an NPI Supporter Button on your website, social media pages, email signature, or printed materials; include a link in the image to the NPI website.
  • Post about the NPI on your Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networking pages and add a link to the NPI website, or Tweet about optics and photonics using #NPI and links to the website.
  • Write an op-ed or letter to the editor to your local newspaper about the NPI and the importance of optics and photonics to the local community. Email NPI@lightourfuture.org for samples and guidance.
  • Become an official NPI Partner, as a Supporter or Collaborator.
  • Invite your members of Congress to attend a photonics-focused event at your company or university or in your district. Take NPI materials to meetings in Washington or locally to educate members of Congress, staffers and agency officials about the initiative and photonics. Email NPI@lightourfuture.org for step-by-step guides, contact information, and materials.

30 July 2012

Harnessing Light Co-chair: Study will just be a starting point

The anticipated "Harnessing Light" report from the National Academies will consist of important themes, and educating the population about photonics is key to getting the most from the study's recommendations, says Paul McManamon, past president of SPIE and cochair of the study committee.

The study is based on nearly two years of work gathering input from the optics and photonics community. The committee received both public and private testimony at numerous meetings across the United States. 

The committee focused on not only building on the success of the original 1998 Harnessing Light report in establishing optics as an enabling technology impacting a wide range of disciplines, but also on identifying technological opportunities that have arisen from recent advances in optical science and how to translate progress in photonics innovation into competitiveness advantage, workforce needs, and manufacturing infrastructure. The report is expected to be issued in late summer 2012.

In another SPIE video, Erik Svedberg of the National Academies and Larry Goldberg, a report sponsor from NSF, talk about the process of gathering input for the report and the potential outcomes from its release: Harnessing Light 2 report aims to chart course for photonics' future.

01 September 2011

Can photonics escape from the 'burning platform'? That's up to you

Committee members (from left) Charles Falco, co-chairs Alan Willner and Paul McManamon, Milton Chang and Erica Fuchs heard comments at SPIE Optics + Photonics.

Economic stability.

High-added-value jobs.

R&D funding.

Workforce for the future.

Industry-academia synergy.


National security.

Energy self-sufficiency.

Technology leadership.

Raising the economic “tide” for the benefit of the entire photonics industry worldwide.

Five members of the National Academies’ Harnessing Light committee who came to SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego, California, last week collected these and other concerns from community members at a town hall forum on the committee’s report on the photonics industry in the U.S.

Led by committee co-chairs Paul McManamon and Alan Willner and attended by committee members Erica Fuchs, Milton Chang, and Charles Falco, meeting participants grappled with many challenges confronting the photonics industry.

Not the least of those is quantifying its impact on the national and global economies.

A lack of reliable statistics was cited frequently, as well as the need to decide what constitutes an impact, such as when an optical system is incorporated into a product such as a car -- just what is the scope of the photonics industry?

Among the comments offered during the town hall:

Philip Stahl said that emphasizing the potential for jobs in the title of the final report would help get the attention of congressional leaders – a necessary part in the competition for funding.

M. J. Soileau agreed, saying that a "well-oiled campaign" is needed, with help from industry, “to make the pitch -- show how they contribute." He expressed concern about getting the attention of politicians, and the mismatch of the political timescale with that of technology-based economic growth.

John Greivenkamp, who served on the first committee to create a Harnessing Light report in 1998, pointed out that it's "very hard to sell an enabling technology.” He recommended a brief and easily readable report aimed at policy makers and their staffs who need to understand the importance of the technology but may not have a high level of scientific understanding.

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs was among those who stressed the urgency of the task.

“The last report (published in 1998) was written at a time when we were complacent,”  he said. “Now, we’re on a burning platform. Significant changes in the metrics and incentives for our R&D spending are needed, as are tax changes to favor investment over the timescale of innovation.”

Agree? Disagree? There’s still time to have a say. Comment below, click on this link to take a survey to help inform the committee, or visit the National Academies site to provide feedback to the committee.

What’s at stake for your future plans?

21 August 2011

Survey says ... lasers, detectors, sensors, and imaging lead the list

The Harnessing Light 2 report aims to illustrate the strong economic impact that technologies have on the global economy, both now and in the future.

SPIE is asking the industry in an open survey to rate the importance of photonics technologies, to help inform the committee.

You can see initial results below – but what is your opinion?

Click on this link to take the survey, and share your perspectives with the Harnessing Light committee.

And remember to attend the town hall forum with members of the Harnessing Light committee tomorrow (Monday 22 August) 5:30-7 p.m. at the San Diego Convention Center during SPIE Optics + Photonics -- have your say in person!
Importance of Photonics Topics
Number of responses, per technology

Not Important
Lasers, components, systems
Detectors, sensors
Cameras, imaging, image processing
Fiber optics, communications
LED lighting
Optical materials
Optical systems, components 
Photonics for sustainable energy, environment
Organic photonics
Microtechnologies (MEMS/MOEMS)
Silicon photonics
Quantum optics

09 August 2011

Speak out for photonics and invent the future

So why should you care about a National Academies study on optics and photonics?

Besides the reality that optics and photonics has changed life for us all and has so much more to offer, the answer depends on what you are doing and hope to do in optics and photonics.

Does your future depend on decisions made at the federal, state, or market level (e.g., VCs, banks, or angel investors)?

If Congress, forced to find cuts, decided to slash Department of Energy science funding, NASA funding, National Science Foundation funding, or Department of Defense funding, would it affect you?

Would new financial or trade regulations hurt your job prospects?

Would action on solar energy or advanced lighting speed the transition to a sustainable world?

Hardworking individuals at some of the highest federal levels — Congress and the Administration chief among them — are overwhelmed with appeals for support from a plethora of interest groups, including individuals from the photonics sector on occasion. I have been with a variety of groups of scientists and engineers meeting with Congressional representatives and senators, their staff, or the staff of entities such as the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to argue for support for science and technology (S&T) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

Even with these efforts, we are regularly chastised for our lack of visibility and activity, and — for some reason —frequently contrasted with the beer industry: The two-million-plus S&T community are less visible in Congressional offices than the 60,000 or so energetic representatives of the nation’s beer distributors.

It may be abhorrent to our culture to be the squeaky wheel in political circles (engineers in particular preferring to oil the bearings). But as we look at national belt tightening, it is becoming more important to communicate our value and point out what social economic and security benefits optics and photonics has already brought, and the extraordinary impact to come.

Few of us, and fewer in Congress, ever think about the science and technology behind switching on a light. Our smartphones deliver immediate information over the photonics-powered internet on beautiful displays enabled by processors and memory manufactured by laser lithography. But the lack of appreciation of what we optical scientists and engineers have wrought is a topic for another day.

The multitasking Congressperson or Congressional aide that I hope you will soon visit already will be thinking about the torrent of interest groups flowing by throughout the day, many with very plausible and well-crafted stories. But how many will be able to make an impact with a National Academies study that backs their story, that makes the case?

The Academies were set up to give independent advice to government — a government which is made up mostly of individuals with little scientific background — and helps them see through the clutter of demands and interest groups. This is needed more than ever. National Academies studies help shape policy and help determine funding and investments.

Wise use of our more constrained resources is important to us all. Photonics science and technology should be favored, not because we love it, but because the potential for return on investment — social, financial, scientific, medical, and environmental — is quite extraordinary.

It is crucial that the study capture the contributions and future of photonics. This is a unique opportunity to help the National Academies committee with this formidable task. This is your opportunity to influence — to invent — your future.

That’s why you should care.

What can you do?

Click on this link to take the survey, and share your perspectives with the Harnessing Light committee.

And if you'll be in San Diego later this month, you can share your ideas with the committee in person.

Several members of the Harnessing Light committee will attend a town-hall style forum at SPIE Optics + Photonics in the San Diego Convention Center, 5:30-7 p.m. on Monday 22 August. The public is welcome to attend.

04 August 2011

The future of photonics: How good, how cheap, how much fair play?

The results from the first round of a survey on future challenges for the photonics industry show concerns around quality, costs, respect for intellectual property, and other issues.

The survey results will be offered as input from the community to the National Academies committee that is updating the Harnessing Light study of the photonics industry.

Survey results are posted on the SPIE website, and include a list of what respondents saw as the most important photonics technologies for the future.

Now, it’s your turn.

Click on this link to take the survey, and share your perspectives with the Harnessing Light committee.

And if you'll be in San Diego later this month, you can share your ideas with the committee in person.

Several members of the Harnessing Light committee will attend a town-hall style forum at SPIE Optics + Photonics in the San Diego Convention Center, 5:30-7 p.m. on Monday 22 August. The public is welcome to attend.

01 August 2011

What's your opinion? Photonics industry panel awaits your input

The Harnessing Light update committee is looking for input, as SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs notes in this post's video.

Some of the committee members will also be on hand for a town hall meeting during the SPIE Optics + Photonics symposium in San Diego later this month. The event will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday 22 August in the San Diego Convention Center -- see you there!

If you can't attend the San Diego town hall meeting, please post your thoughts in the comment field below, and SPIE will share them with the National Academies' committee. Thank you for doing your part to drive the future of photonics.