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Good news on the photonics funding front

The last few weeks have brought some good news for the advance of photonics research and technology, at least in the near term.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to authorize $46 billion over the next three years for the America COMPETES Act of 2010, continuing important basic research, science education, and other programs, and initiating new ones for green energy, science and innovation clusters, and workforce development.
On 15 December, the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced grant awards totaling $22 million.
The TIP awards will fund nine projects in advanced manufacturing research in electronics, biotechnology and nanotechnology, and target technologies in fields ranging from biopharmaceuticals and electronics to renewable energy sources and energy storage. With matching funds from other sources, the TIP awards are expected to result in an estimated $46 million in funding for new advanced manufacturing research over the next three years.
However, while the COMPETES funding has been authorized, the money has not yet been appropriated. That isn’t expected to happen before February, already several months into the fiscal year. The actual amounts appropriated for various programs could be less than authorized.
While delighted to see continued strong support in COMPETES for NIST, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs said his was a cautious welcome.
The first America COMPETES Act was passed in 2007, based on recommendations outlined in the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report released by the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. But, noted Arthurs, funding for the 2007 bill was not included in the subsequent appropriations omnibus action, striking "a damaging blow to getting America back on track."
No doubt there will be very close attention paid to the wording of the appropriations bill for the 2010 act.
And in the meantime, the solutions for industry and the quality-of-life improvements that photonics provides will be in the limelight next month at Photonics West in San Francisco.
Nine of 26 finalists for this year’s Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation will be honored for their products that break with conventional ideas to solve problems.
More than 100 products from some of the 1100-plus companies in the Photonics West exhibition will be launching new products, for biomedical optics, laser, MOEMS-MEMS, and optoelectronics applications.
There are some dazzling new ideas in play, and well-deserving of R&D support. Any suggestions on how to ensure priority for the COMPETES act and other government funding around the world?

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