10/8/2012 12:00:00 AM
Interpreting the Harnessing Light Committee Report
The National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academies of Science released a much-awaited draft report on optics in August to much fanfare. OSA issued a statement supporting the work, as did its sibling societies. (You can download a free copy of the report here and see OSA’s roundtable discussion of it here.)
Now, what does it mean?
First, about the title. The official title of the report is “Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation.” The report was issued through the Harnessing Light Committee of the NRC, reflecting the name of an earlier report on the topic from 1998, called “Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century.” Consequently, some are calling it “Harnessing Light II,” as in: the sequel. (In fact, it’s the third of a trilogy. There was a 1988 report from the NRC, “Photonics: Maintaining Competitiveness in the Information Era.” That makes the new report “Harnessing Light III.”) Second, to be precise, the report is done but is officially called a draft until some editorial details are ironed out. It is expected to be ready in October.
Most importantly, what does the report say? Optics is a diverse set of technologies, enabling a broad array of applications. The report reflects this, with many chapters each dedicated to major application areas: communications, biomedicine, national security, manufacturing, displays, and so on. In each case, the report identifies major findings and recommendations that would be useful to government and industry stakeholders.
I found particularly notable an entire chapter near the front on the impact of optics in the economy. The report itself notes that good data is lacking, and calls for better tracking, but it lays out the case for optics as a key enabler for the economy. This sets the tone of the report.
It parallels a 2011 report prepared for the European Commission, called “The Leverage Effect of Photonics Technologies: the European Perspective.” That report was entirely dedicated to the economic case, and claimed that the European photonics market is 21% of the world market, it employs nearly 300,000 people, and there are 5,000 European companies active in the field. The NRC and EC reports complement each other in this way, making the case for optics in different ways.
What happens next? OIDA plays a role. In the current tight budget environment, and given the more obscure standing of optics (compared to, for example, the auto industry), the committee didn’t expect the report to be an end in itself, but an enabler, like the industry it describes. The authors use phrases like “it needs to be interpreted,” “it’s a starting point for dialogue,” and “it politely makes our voice heard.” They expect government and industry stakeholders to use it to move the ball downfield, so to speak.
Most recommendations in the report fall to government agencies, with nudging from industry and its stakeholders, including professional societies. References to public/private partnerships are woven throughout the work. In fact, OIDA is active in several topics addressed in the report, as well as others not addressed there. Most notable are efforts in communications: photonic integration and data centers. OIDA plans to increase efforts in these and other topics, and to leverage the report to address pressing issues in optoelectronics.
A few words about expectations. Many have noted that the 1998 U.S. report was used by other countries, particularly Germany, to promote its own program in optics. This is somehow taken to suggest that the U.S. community dropped the ball when that report came out, while a competing government stepped in and used it to its advantage.
To me, that is the wrong way to look at it. The new report quite rightly addresses the issues facing its U.S. community, not elsewhere. Of course, leading countries and regions in optics look to each other for validation and a call for action. But each country and region is different: the U.S. shies away from picking industries to promote in the way that, say, Germany, Taiwan, or China do. Advocating for photonics, and measuring success, will look different in the U.S. than it will elsewhere.
The new report provides an opportunity for OIDA and the optics community. The committee aimed to be comprehensive, yet practical. Having worked myself on reports of this kind for the U.S. Congress, back in the 1990s, I can vouch that it’s a difficult task, and I think the committee did as well as anyone could have done with their assignment. Now it’s time for the community to take the report and continue to “make our voice heard.”
Tom Hausken is Senior Engineering & Applications Advisor at OSA, where he supports several activities within OIDA.
Complimentary Reception and Business Presentation
Hosted by OIDA and OSA’s Corporate Associates
Sponsored by Corning
4:00 – 6:00 PM
16 October, 2012 – Rochester, NY, USA
In mid-September, members of OIDA met with a representative from the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to discuss the future of the optoelectronics industry in the United States. The role of OSTP is to provide the President with accurate, relevant, and timely scientific and technical advice on all matters of consequence. OSTP is interested in discussing ways in which the optoelectronics industry and the government can work together to create a vibrant and state-of–art optoelectronics manufacturing base in the U.S. Central to the discussion was a recent Request for Information (RFI) from the Air Force seeking comments on the industry’s ability to meet evolving US Government requirements for advance information and communications technology solutions.
Although the deadline to submit comments for the RFI has passed, the OSTP staff encouraged interested companies to still consider submitting comments. Submissions can be made here.
For additional information regarding the OSTP meeting or the RFI, please contact Laura Kolton, OSA’s Government Relations Director at email@example.com.
OIDA members who attended the OSTP meeting included (from left to right): Fred Kish, Infinera, Claudio Mazzali, Corning, Michael Frankel, Ciena, Tom Hausken, OIDA/OSA, Beth Hampton, OIDA/OSA, Eric Hall, Aurrion, Doug Cooper, OneChip Photonics
The Advisory Board and Council will have a new Chair as of 1 October, 2012. Our current Chair Rich Grzybowski is stepping down from his position at Corning and will be leaving his position as Chair of the Advisory Board and Council. OIDA management and its members would like to thank Rich for all of his time, hard work and enthusiasm during his term as Chair.
Rich’s replacement will be his colleague at Corning, Claudio Mazzali who was appointed Business Technology Director, Optical Fiber at Corning in 2010. In this role, Mazzali leads the product and process development as well as some new business development initiatives for Corning Optical Fiber.
Mazzali joined Corning in 1999 at the Brazilian regional office as an optical communications specialist, and later became technical manager for Corning Optical Fiber in Latin America. In 2001, Mazzali was transferred to Corning, N.Y., where he assumed the position of strategic alliances manager, responsible for establishing partnerships and collaborations with system houses.
Mazzali has held multiple positions in Corning Optical Fiber including product line manager for highdata-rate and submarine products, as well as the manager for the Global Market Development & Analysis team. More recently, Mazzali started the New Business & Technology Development group, whose mission is to expand ongoing initiatives in optical fiber innovation focusing on uncovering adjacent opportunities to support emerging applications.
Mazzali holds a Ph.D. in physics from the Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute at Unicamp, Brazil. He also attended the Tuck Global Leadership 2020 program and is a member of the Optical Society of America.
Please visit the Member Directory for a full listing of OIDA members.
The Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO) issued a formal request for information on a new public-private partnership proposed by President Obama: the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).
Learn more here!