Sure enough, the White House just announced the next step in the series:
As part of the effort to build on the progress made and highlight the need for continued investment in American manufacturing, the President is announcing today a new competition to award more than $200 million in public and private investment to create an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute, led by the Department of Defense, and the second of four new institute competitions to be launched this year.
I expect competition to be fierce for this opportunity, as it could serve to secure or even create a region’s reputation as a leading-edge technical research center. The announcement goes on to provide further details:
Each manufacturing innovation institute serves as a regional hub, bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S. This type of “teaching factory” provides a unique opportunity for education and training of students and workers at all levels, while providing the shared assets to help companies, most importantly small manufacturers, access the cutting-edge capabilities and equipment to design, test, and pilot new products and manufacturing processes.
The educational aspect has me intrigued. One of our local universities, the University of Texas at Arlington, has a mandate to grow its engineering student body, and has been working toward establishing an innovative, maker-friendly environment on campus. Another in the UT system, the University of Texas at Dallas, provides a Masters degree in Photonics. As with the previous advanced manufacturing facility, I’m excited by the prospect of both universities pairing up to pursue this one. And like before, I’ll make sure the competition is brought to the attention of local leaders who should have a vested interest in going after it.
Why should we care?
Photonics, the use of light for applications as diverse as lasers and telecommunications, powers the Internet as we know it today. Integrated Photonics manufacturing, the next generation of this extremely important technology, has the potential to revolutionize the carrying capacity of internet networks and to transport information at far greater densities and much lower costs than can be attained today. Beyond the Internet and telecommunications, integrated photonics can revolutionize medical technology – from the development of “needleless” technologies for monitoring diabetics’ blood sugar levels to tiny cameras smaller than pills that can travel within arteries. Integrated Photonics are expected to bring the sequencing of human genomes rapidly down the cost curve, making genome sequencing possible for less than $1,000 as compared to $5,000 today. And in national defense, the potential applications of integrated photonics range from improving battlefield imaging to dramatic advances in radar.
Some city is going to land this. DFW folks, let’s make an effort!