11 January 2011

Help design the future of photonics funding ... and make "photonics" a household word

As pervasive and vital as photonics technologies are in industry, healthcare, communications, entertainment, and elsewhere in modern life, the term “photonics” is not exactly a household word.

More to the point, it is not a term that is immediately understood in many houses of government, where decisions are made about which research, innovation, and education programs to fund and how richly to fund them.

Yet, programs benefit more when policy makers and budget writers understand the importance of the technologies and the scope of the industry.

Information about the size of the photonics industry and the influence of photonics science, in the form of comprehensive national and regional reports, has been a powerful tool for helping to communicate with governments about the importance of photonics funding.

In the past few years, reports have surveyed industry activity, market trends, and opportunities regionally in the European Union and in Asia, while additional reports focus on Canada, Sweden, Germany, Scotland, Japan, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and other areas.

Universally, these studies illustrate the potential of photonics to solve many challenges faced around the world -- developing economical green energy, managing healthcare costs and quality, ensuring security in cyberspace, and much more.

Published in 1998, the current United States report, Harnessing Light, is in need of updating. As useful as it has been, enormous progress has been made during the past 12 years in photonics sciences and technologies.

This month, the U.S. National Academies, through its operating arm, the National Research Council, and SPIE are offering an opportunity for in-person comment on the updating the Harnessing Light study.

Erik Svedberg, Senior Program Officer with the National Academies, and SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs will moderate a panel on "The Future of Photonics," on 27 January, 8:45 to 9:30 a.m., at Moscone Center in San Francisco during SPIE Photonics West. There is no charge to attend, but participants must obtain entry badges at the Photonics West registration desk. More information about the Harnessing Light forum is available online.

So here’s your chance. Help design the future, and maybe even make “photonics” a household word.

And in the meantime, get inspired by the words of Charles Townes, Mike Dunne, Kumar Patel, Margaret Murnane, and other industry and research leaders who are using photonics to shape the future:

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