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NPI Applauds Federal Competition to Create IP-IMI


The National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance of top scientific societies uniting industry and academia to raise awareness of photonics, applauded today’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) issued by the US Department of Defense (DOD), through the Air Force Research Laboratory, calling for concept papers for the establishment of an Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI). In October, President Obama announced his administration’s intent to form an IP-IMI, the sixth institute under his National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The FOA reaffirms this commitment with DOD investing $110 million, matched by $110 million or more in investment from industry, academia and/or state and local government, to the winning proposal. The IP-IMI will be the largest federal investment to date.

“Although the US has historically been the world leader in transitioning photonics research to the commercial markets, several nations around the world have recently invested heavily in advancing their already strong optics and photonics industries,” said NPI Steering Committee Chair, Tom Baer. “The NPI commends the administration for its commitment to developing an IP-IMI that will stimulate greater US investment and production and galvanize our nation’s position at the forefront of the global marketplace.”

Optics and photonics are the science and application of light. Specifically, photonics generates, controls and detects light to advance robotics, manufacturing, medical imaging, next-generation displays, defense technologies, biometric security, image processing, communications, astronomy and much more. Integrated photonics circuits incorporate multiple miniature optical structures to manipulate and control beams of light, in the same way that integrated electronic circuits control electrons, in order to encode, transmit and decode information. A major goal for the IP-IMI will be to develop low-cost, high volume, manufacturing methods to interface electronic integrated circuits with integrated photonic devices.

According to the FOA, the Government intends to support the establishment of an IP-IMI that will 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.  This end-to-end integrated photonics manufacturing innovation ‘ecosystem’ in the US will include: integrated design tools for efficient simulation and design of integrated photonic circuits, domestic photonic device fabrication foundry access, automated packaging, assembly and test of integrated photonic circuits, and workforce development. Activities under the IP-IMI will enable universities and small-to-medium enterprises to participate in the integrated photonics revolution. This IMI will bring government, industry and academia together with the goal of organizing the current fragmented domestic capabilities in integrated photonic technology and better position the U.S. relative to global competition.

Issuance of the FOA follows a DOD Request for Information (RFI) published in June that sought responses from experts on key technologies, including optics and photonics, being considered to serve as the basis for a new institute under the NNMI. Coordinated by the NPI in partnership with founding sponsor societies The Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, dozens of experts within the national photonics community organized to answer DOD’s information request and provide numerous, thoughtful and compelling responses.