September 10, 2012
Optics leaders tout role in nation's economy
By: Matthew Daneman
Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Industry is vital to economy, but feels it lacks respect
If one man embodies the nation’s optics, photonics and imaging companies collectively, it might be Rodney Dangerfield.
like to get some respect,” University of Rochester Associate Dean Wayne
Knox preached to the choir Monday at the Rochester Regional Photonics
Cluster’s annual meeting.
About 200 area optics industry
executives and educators crowded the Rochester Museum & Science
Center for presentations and a panel talk about how important optics is
to the local and national economies and yet how it gets short shrift by
state and federal policy makers compared to some sexier industries, like
The centerpiece of the meeting was the presentation
of “Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation,” a
report released in August by the National Research Council of the
National Academies. The report tries to lay out the huge place optics
plays in the nation’s economy —282 publicly traded companies
representing $3 billion in revenues and 7.4 million workers, not
counting the legions of small, privately held companies.
report argues for a National Photonics Initiative that would see
academic, corporate and government researchers and policy makers jointly
create a unified approach to business and governmental
research-and-development spending on phototonics.
While the United
States currently dominates the optics field in many ways, “that’s not a
God-given right,” said Paul McManamon, technical director of the Ladar
and Optical Communications Institute at the University of Dayton in
Ohio. In terms of broader support for the optics industry, he said,
“Germany gets it. China gets it.”
Part of the challenge
the optics industry faces for getting more attention from government
policy makers is a public relations one, said Kent Gardner, chief
economist and research officer at the Center for Governmental Research.
we’re important to everything is a tough sales job,” Gardner said. “A
lot of that is about coming up with a good storyline.”
Kaloyeros, CEO of the State University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale
Science and Engineering, which has received hundreds of millions of
state tax dollars, “is a very, very effective salesman,” Gardner
said.The Regional Photonics Cluster, along with UR, Monroe Community
College and High Tech Rochester, is seeking U.S. Energy Department grant
money to re-establish the National Center for Optics Manufacturing to
allow design and manufacturing work of particular cutting edge optics.
“There is no better place for a national center than here,” said cluster Executive Director Thomas Battley.