presented by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (see Box 2.3), which has supported work by academic researchers in the United States. Nonetheless, given that SRC programs tend to focus on developing technologies to achieve specific end goals that involve stakeholders from a single industry, the long-term precompetitive research agenda supported by the SRC may be insufficient by itself to deal with the diversity of applications that are the focus of R&D within the field of photonics.

Rather than endorsing any single structure for the support of R&D that involves collaboration among industry, government, and academic researchers, the committee believes that a higher-level venue for discussion and assessment of R&D priorities is needed. Any such structure could include among its activities R&D consortia of the type represented by SRC, or SEMATECH, or still other models for collaborative R&D. A research consortium is more likely to succeed in a focused application of the optics and photonics landscape. In the absence of some coordinating initiative, it will prove difficult to develop an effective strategy for public and private R&D investment that seeks to support longer-term R&D and to translate innovation into economic opportunities for U.S. firms and employees across the diversity of emerging photonics applications. Accordingly, the committee’s judgment is that the time is overdue for a federal initiative in photonics that seeks to engage industry, academic, and government researchers and policy makers in the design and oversight of R&D and related programs that include federal as well as industry funding.

Proposed National Photonics Initiative

A national photonics initiative would coordinate agency-level investment in photonics-related R&D and could provide partial support for other technology-development initiatives, including R&D consortia funded by federal and industry sources. The committee believes that a number of experiments in coordinating across industry-government-academia in different fields of R&D and technology development are warranted. As pointed out in the next chapter, “Communications, Information Processing, and Data Storage,” one application area that may be particularly ripe for such a public-private consortium is large-scale data communications and storage, now the focus of an initiative overseen by OSTP.94 Finally, as with NNI, a national photonics initiative would assume responsibility for developing, coordinating, and measuring federal funding and national outputs (such as economic indicators) in photonics, to help inform national policy.


94 Office of Science and Technology Policy. 2012. “Big Data Press Release.” Available at Accessed July 30, 2012.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement