National Photonics Initiative volunteers visit Congress to urge support for photonics legislation

March 28, 2014
On behalf of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), volunteers from industry and research labs across the USA visited Congressional offices to urge support for key issues related to photonics technologies and R&D.

IMAGE: Volunteers were briefed on budget, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) policy, and other issues by Capitol Hill experts, in preparation for visiting Congressional offices. (Image credit: SPIE)

On behalf of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI; http://lightourfuture.org), volunteers from industry and research labs across the USA visited Congressional offices to urge support for key issues related to photonics technologies and R&D. Supported by SPIE (Bellingham, WA; http://spie.org), the international society for optics and photonics, and other NPI founders and sponsors, the 36 volunteers from photonics were among a total of nearly 200 volunteers participating in this year's Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group (SETWG) Congressional Visits Day.

NPI volunteers urged support for:

(1) the bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 (RAMI) to establish manufacturing institutes known as the Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NMI) that would function through a public-private partnership between the federal government, local governments, universities, research institutes, and industry to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications;

(2) reauthorization of the bi-partisan America COMPETES Act (originally passed in 2007 and expired in December 2013) to ensure American competitiveness in the global marketplace and adding language specifying photonics to reflect the industry's critical role in the ongoing innovation of many other sectors; and

(3) establishment of a National Photonics Prototyping and Advance Manufacturing Facility within the Department of Defense's manufacturing mandate, possibly through inclusion of language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that could produce critical defense applications for warfighters, as well as drive new generations of high-tech commercial applications such as a more secure Internet, enhanced medical diagnostics, and portable sources of renewable energy.

SPIE Fellow Bahaa Saleh reported that the visitors were successful in raising awareness among Congressional staff and members about the importance of photonics technology and the goals of the NPI. "There appears to be some appreciation for our agenda of promoting reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act and having Congress recognize that optics and photonics research and technologies are critical to our nations' leadership in global markets," Saleh said. "I am hopeful that our request for support for the RAMI Act and investment in the development and production of high-power laser technology will have some effect."

SOURCE: SPIE; http://spie.org/x106836.xml

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