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Event focus is outlook for optics, photonics

Rochester Business Journal
August 24, 2012

The local optics-photonics industry employs some 14,000 people, and that number is expected to continue growing as the industry touches nearly every other aspect of manufacturing, from making a smartphone to supplying parts that help Google Inc.'s data centers run.

That message-and how these companies can continue to thrive locally and nationally-will be a key topic at the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster/New York Photonics annual meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

The event marks the release of the 2012 update to the 1998 report "Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century," commissioned from the National Research Council by Congress. Both the 1998 and 2012 reports are based on research and insights from leading optics experts-including some from Rochester-and are key to defining economic policy in countries around the world.

At the meeting, industry experts Paul McManamon and Stephen Anderson are to present research from the report on the current state of, and commercial opportunities in, optics and photonic science in the United States.

McManamon is past president of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and served as co-chairman of the "Harnessing Light II" committee. He is the technical director of the Ladar and Optical Communications Institute at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Anderson, the former Laser Focus World editor-in-chief, serves as industry and marketing strategist for SPIE.

Those from the Rochester region who contributed to the 2012 report include:

- Duncan Moore, vice president of entrepreneurship and professor of optical engineering and biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester;

- Waguih Ishak, division vice president and director at Corning Inc.; and

- Edward White of Edward White Consulting, formerly general manager of Eastman Kodak Co.'s optical products business unit.

McManamon and Anderson have been traveling the country to discuss the findings. Rochester was chosen as a meeting site because of its strong optics-photonics base.

Anderson said that while the industry is well aware of its capabilities, it needs to focus on promoting itself to those who are not involved in the daily operations.

"Our goal is to make the word 'photonic' as much a part of the English language as the word 'electronics' is today," Anderson said.

Thomas Battley, Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster executive director, said the research is a blueprint for economic growth. The Rochester area is recognized as a global leader in optics, and the information is key to maintaining its competitive advantage, he said.

Nationally, the optics-photonics industry generates an estimated 10 percent of the country's public company revenue and more than 1.5 million jobs, the report shows. Much of the activity comes from smaller firms, and the potential for more economic growth is substantial.

Topics to be discussed at the event include how the vision of "Harnessing Light" has changed since 1998, what is driving innovation in optics and imaging, what are the greatest industry challenges and how the region can capitalize on its advantage in the optics industry.

Anderson said several applications stand out as areas for innovation in the optics and photonics report. They include: flexible displays; next-generation solid-state lighting; sensors for wide-ranging applications such as automobile safety and climate monitoring; materials for solar energy and medical diagnosis; and additive manufacturing, which is 3-D printing of items such as precisely machined airplane parts and microscope lenses.

Some advanced manufacturing applications that have been done overseas are starting to return to the United States, meaning more work for U.S. firms, he added. Other areas that could have an impact on regional companies are finding niche markets from work originally done for federal agencies, such as the Defense Department, and looking at ways to increase Internet capacity.

The event, which is the RRPC's annual fundraiser, costs $45 and includes food, refreshments and networking after the program. For more information and registration, go to

8/24/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email


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