photonics-enabled technologies to be competitive in the marketplace.6 To move forward in general, having an optics and photonics technology roadmap that focuses on meeting needs in specific market applications and that is synergistic with business and marketing trends could help to improve business development, profitability, and growth.


In considering actions for global leadership in the photonics industry, the committee took note of several important points. For example, although many key optics and photonics innovations occurred in the United States, including in display and communications technologies, the multibillion-dollar display industry has moved mostly to Southeast Asia, with a negligible fraction of display production remaining in the United States. Furthermore, whereas the United States for decades led the manufacture of telecommunications equipment, China went from having no company in 1998 in the top 10 largest telecommunications companies in the world to having three such companies in 2011. A similar scenario exists for Chinese companies that specialize in selling optical components and subsystems. By contrast, data centers continue to be located overwhelmingly in the United States, possibly because the United States has the most effective communications infrastructure at the moment.

A theme evident in several of the presentations made to the committee was that innovation will remain critical to ensuring a U.S. leadership position in optics and photonics. The United States has acclaimed educational institutions and a creative, entrepreneurial corporate spirit. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the number of patents granted to the United States in 2010 in the field of optics was more than 50 percent greater than that granted to the next-nearest country. Yet, according to the records of the Optical Society of America, the number of research papers submitted to its journals in 2010 by scholars from the Pacific Rim countries exceeded the number of papers submitted by North American authors.7


Education plays a critically important role in ensuring a vibrant future for the United States in the fields of optics and photonics. Today, the United States has


6 See, for example, the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education’s (OPTEC’s) Photonics: An Enabling Technology, for fields that are important. Available at Accessed July 30, 2012.

7 Cao, J. 2012. A new journal in optics and photonics—Light: Science and Applications. Editorial. Light: Science and Applications 1:Online. Available at Accessed July 26, 2012.

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