08 June 2011

How many ways can photonics innovation change life for the better?

Quick quiz: List five examples of how photonics technology has changed how you live -- how you work, travel, relax, look after your health --- whatever. Easy, right? Now, name five photonics-based changes you expect to see in the near future. Also easy.

Photonics solutions are everywhere, and the time is ripe for more photonics innovation. Governments, industry, and other funders around the world are developing new policy initiatives and offering new sources of funding in support of photonics R&D.

Some of those initiatives need your participation to be successful. Among them:

●   In the UK, photonics recently was named one of the potential candidate areas for investment in the next phase of the Strategy and Implementation Plan for Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs). If you live in the UK, you can help influence that choice: Comments about what photonics can do are being sought, and can be posted on the photonics TIC discussion space or emailed to centres@tsb.gov.uk.

●   The European Commission recently closed a comment period on its Green Paper on Research and Innovation, in which they sought input for the next budget cycle on bringing together the current Framework Programme for research, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

●   In an effort to identify and encourage future pathways for photonics innovation, a committee has been appointed by the U.S. National Academy of Science to update the 1998 “Harnessing Light” study of the photonics industry. The committee is in the information-gathering stage, and is doing so through a variety of methods including town-hall-style meetings at events. One such event is scheduled for Monday 22 August at SPIE Optics+Photonics in San Diego, California.

●   On the industry side, one new initiative is the Blue Ocean Grants and Challenges Program launched by Ocean Optics. Blue Ocean follows an open-innovation model expounded by Henry Chesbrough in his book by that title, where companies pay for new information from the outside. The program is looking specifically for new ideas in optical sensing that have potential for market commercialization.

●   Another recent initiative is the newly founded Center for Optical Research and Education (CORE) at Utsunomiya University. The center represents the first time in Japan for this type of joint effort between industry  -- Canon Inc. -- and a national university. (You'll see more on this in a subsequent post.)

●   At the recent Laser World of Photonics, Georg Schuette of Germany's Federal Ministry for Education and Research announced a comprehensive and well-funded Agenda 2020 for photonics.


Looking for inspiration for your own innovation process or ideas? Try these:

●   John Kao, author of Innovation Nation, and Regina Dugan, Director of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and plenary speaker at the recent SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing symposium are among those interviewed in a recent CNN-TIME feature on American innovators.

Angelique Irvin, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Clear Align, shares her experience in photonics innovation in an SPIE Newsroom video interview:



●   Jerry Nelson, 2010 winner of the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for innovations in telescope design, also talked with the SPIE Newsroom about his work:



●   A sampling of  international innovation in biomedical optics was presented at the Photonics West 2011 Biomedical Optics “Hot Topics” session.

Inspired yet? What's your innovation story?

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