Update on international government policy and investments

March 17, 2022
SPIE’s Jennifer O’Bryan discussed latest changes to international government policy and investments affecting the optics and photonics community.

SPIE’s Government Affairs Director Jennifer O’Bryan start her talk at LPMS 2022 by discussing some bills of importance to the photonics community, including a spotlight on the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law on November 15, 2021.

“Within this large $1 trillion bill, there are actually some pretty significant dollars going toward certain R&D priorities,” she says. “Specifically, it included $25 billion for energy technology demonstration projects that will vastly expand DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) efforts in carbon mitigation and hydrogen production.”

The breakdown includes $6 billion over five years for carbon capture, capture utilization and storage, research & development, and technology demonstrations; $3.5 billion over five years for four regional hubs for removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere; $8 billion over five years to support the establishment of four regional hubs for producing clean hydrogen; $1 billion for a clean hydrogen electrolysis demonstration program; and $500 million for a clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling program.

Additionally, within the advanced manufacturing sector, the bill included $150 million over five years to establish a Future of Industry Program. “Among other activities, [this] will set up academic centers to help manufacturers implement technologies for applications such as energy management, smart manufacturing, and cybersecurity,” she says. “A further 400 million is provided the project implementation grants to manufacturers.”

According to O’Bryan, the DOE is expected to hire 1000 employees in response to the infrastructure act funding and directives. Additionally, they released two requests for information in the federal registerone seeking technologies ready to be demonstrated that reduce carbon emissions and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and another seeking input on viable hydrogen demonstration projects. “Of course, this creates opportunities for the laser community if your lasers are utilized for environmental monitoring or manufacturing applications,” she says. “Definitely something to track if you feel like you have applicable products.”

O’Bryan also discussed the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better bill, which in its current form dedicates significant funds towards R&D efforts. For instance, $2 billion towards DOE’s R&D programs and $5 billion for its lateral laboratory infrastructure. “And then at the National Science Foundation, they included $3.5 billion, of which $1.5 billion would be standing up an agencys New Technology Directorate.”

The bill could also create new tax credits for semiconductor manufacturing facilities. “When you look at the semiconductor funding, thats hugely bipartisan popularso I think theyre going to want to make sure it makes it into law at some point this year,” she says.

Foreign relations

The U.S. Geological Survey recently sought comment on a draft list of 50 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy. “Many of these minerals listed are used in lasers,” says O’Bryan.

The Pentagon has signed contracts with American and Australian miners in recent months to boost onshore refining capacity and reduce reliance on Chinese refiners. Additionally, Chinas new export control law proposed draft controls that detail exactly how things will be controlled under this new law, including production and export of 17 rare earth minerals in China. “Rare earth products are likely to have to go through an export approval procedure provided in the ACL if they are finalized,” she says. “Were waiting to see if the state export control administration departments will finalize those particular draft controls.”

U.S. China relations

The tariffs are still in place that were put in place under the Trump administration, explains O’Bryan. “The first discussions between the new Biden administration and Chinese officials did not go well,” she says. However, recent discussions have been more productive between the Chinese Vice Premier and the U.S. Trade Representative. The most recent of those discussions was in October of 2021. With the U.S. focusing on implementing phase one of the trade deal that was signed under the Trump administration and China calling for an end to the tariffs as a demonstration of good faith.

“When coming into office, Biden was very clear that he wanted to work more closely with our allies when it comes to trade issues that play out in several ways,” she says. “One is the establishment of a U.S. EU Trade and Technology Council.” This was announced in June 2021 with the European Commissioner as well as President Biden, and it will focus on topics such as technology standards, cooperation, secure supply chains, data governance, technology and human rights, export controls, and investment screening.

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About the Author

Peter Fretty | Market Leader/Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military

Peter Fretty began his role as the Market Leader, Laser & Military in June 2023; the group encompasses the Laser Focus World, Military & Aerospace Electronics, and Vision Systems Design brands. He also serves as Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military (effective spring 2023) and served as Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World since October 2021. Prior to that, he was Technology Editor for IndustryWeek for two years.

As a highly experienced journalist, he has regularly covered advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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