In 1998, the National Research Council released a report, "Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century," that presented a comprehensive view of the potential impact of optics and photonics on important industries. In response, several economies -- including Germany, China, and the European Union -- advanced their already strong optics and photonics sectors. The United States, however, did not develop a cohesive strategy, leaving us at risk of falling sharply behind.
In 2012, the National Research Council released a follow-up report to Harnessing Light - titled "Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation" - that called for an umbrella organization to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining competitiveness and national security. Heeding the call six organizations -- the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Photonics Society; the Optical Society (OSA); SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics; the Laser Institute of America (LIA); the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA); and the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Laser Science -- worked together to form a National Photonics Initiative (NPI).
The NPI brings together experts from industry, academia and government to assemble recommendations that will help guide US funding and investment in five key photonics-driven fields: advanced manufacturing, communications & IT, defense & national security, energy and health care & medicine. New opportunities in these fields — including solar power, high-efficiency lighting, genome mapping, high-tech manufacturing, nuclear threat identification, cancer detection and new optical capabilities vital to supporting the Internet's growth — offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades. US investment in photonics will grow our economy, protect and improve the lives of our people, and position the United States as a global technology leader.
Now is the time for the United States to make photonics a national priority. In 2012, the National Research Council released the report "Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation" that calls for a National Photonics Initiative to increase collaboration and coordination among US industry, government and academia to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining competitiveness and national security.