US Integrated Photonics Institute to be established with $110m grant

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A matching grant of $110 million has been awarded by the United States Department of Defence (DOD) to a State University of New York (SUNY)-led consortium to establish an Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI).

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 DOD’s pledge for matching funds makes the IP-IMI the largest of several new manufacturing institutes (IMIs) being established by the Obama Administration to develop high-tech jobs in the US, according to a White House fact sheet.

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.

Jim McNally, chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science and Technology Policy committee, said: ‘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.'

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 revolutionise 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 defence. 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 five 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.

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.

Arthurs said: ‘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 fuelling the economy and jobs growth. 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 recognised and understood by important new partners at the highest levels of government strategy and funding direction.’