- Calling the technology key to the future economy, the committee
recommends "the federal government develop an integrated
initiative in photonics (similar in many respects to the
National Nanotechnology Initiative) that seeks to bring together
academic, industrial, and government researchers, managers, and
policy makers to develop a more integrated approach to managing
industrial and government photonics R&D spending and related
This national photonics initiative would be "a
collaborative effort to improve the collection and reporting of
R&D and economic data on the optics and photonics sector,
including the development of a set of North American Industry
Classification System (NAICS) codes that cover photonics; the
collection of data on employment, output, and privately funded
R&D in photonics; and the reporting of federal
photonics-related R&D investment for all federal agencies
- Noting that there has been a factor-of-100 increase in
bandwidth in recent decades, the report recommends a
government-industry partnership to invent technologies to
maintain that growth rate, especially with an eye toward
solutions tightly integrating optics with electronics. "The U.S.
government, and specifically the Department of Defense, should
strive toward harmonizing optics with silicon-based electronics
to provide a new, readily accessible and usable, integrated
electronics and optics platform."
- While acknowledging the challenges, the committee recommends
that the U.S. power grid achieve "parity"--in which no power
source is more expensive than another. Photonics can
provide renewable solar energy, while solid-state lighting can
help reduce the overall need for energy used for lighting.
- The report also calls on the defense industry to fund optical
technologies to deliver laser communications and laser weapons
as part of an improved national security. "Practical application
for these purposes would require the deployment of low- cost
platforms supporting long dwell times," the report said.
EE Times earlier this year profiled engineer and entrepreneur Ganesh Gopalakrishnan
who has been acting a self-described "squeaky wheel" to raise the alarm about the competitive challenges facing the U.S. photonics and optics industries.
Gopalakrishnan, who is executive technical director at the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association
, estimates that about 200,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in North America over the last ten years. (Canadian telecom equipment makers like bankrupt Nortel Networks once accounted for about 40 percent of North American optoelectronics component manufacturing prior to the telecom decline.)
Initial reaction was, not surprisingly, positive.
“This report will serve as a vital tool in making the case for
sustained investments in and adoption of optical science and technology
worldwide, as it provides specific illustrations of the technological
and economic value of optics and photonics in a variety of sectors,”
said Gregory Quarles, public policy committee chair of The Optical Society
. OSA is hosting an Aug. 21 webinar
to discuss the report's recommendations.
Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Manufacturing by design: New skills needed to compete