Photonics guides

March 10, 2017
"The map is not the territory," meaning that many people confuse models of reality with reality itself.
Conard Holton2 5f3bf27a4de46

"The map is not the territory," according to Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), meaning that many people confuse models of reality with reality itself. With this in mind, I've never been entirely convinced that industry-wide road mapping or policy initiatives as developed in the U.S. and Europe reflect reality or further a cause—especially given the inventive and disruptive powers of entrepreneurs and markets. Yet a good case can be made for their effectiveness. The semiconductor industry, for example, has benefited enormously from the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors. Creating or modifying such a roadmap may also benefit specific photonics markets, which is what Larry Tarof, the Chief Photonics Scientist at Jabil Circuit, argues in this issue about the critical stage of packaging photonic integrated circuits (see page 20).

There is a risk of confusion in talking to policymakers about photonics as an industry in the same sense as semiconductors, which has a clear and focused hierarchy of companies. Still, I am struck by the energy brought to bear on policymakers on behalf of the "photonics industry" by the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). Its successes start with the simple fact that the term "optics and photonics" has actually entered political discourse. During SPIE Photonics West, some of the accomplishments were described to an audience of exhibitors by the Podesta Group, which is a Washington, DC firm lobbying for the NPI.

The successes range from federal support for directed energy programs to funding for advanced manufacturing institutes, such as America Makes for additive manufacturing and AIM Photonics for photonic integrated circuits. There are also now roadmaps for the photonics-enabled Cancer Moonshot and the BRAIN Initiative, and more opportunities for SBIR and STTR support.

The message of the NPI remains that photonics has a fundamental impact on U.S. competitiveness and national security. The five key photonics-driven fields for the NPI are advanced manufacturing, communications and IT, defense and national security, energy, and health and medicine. These fields are also keys to global health and prosperity, and are central to the mission that guides us.

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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