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Latest Public Policy News

Public Policy Spotlight

U.S. Releases Narrow Export Control on Artificial Intelligence Software
7 January 2020

On 6 January 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security released an interim final rule to control software specially designed to automate the analysis of geospatial imagery. Though this export control goes into effect immediately through 0Y521 series procedure, which establishes a temporary control on the item to all destinations except Canada, in order for the control to stay in place beyond one year the U.S. must reclassify and establish the control on the Commerce Control List (CCL) under a specific classification entry.

The new export control narrowly applies to a graphical user interface that enables the user to identify objects. Artificial intelligence software that is capable of identifying “positive and negative samples of an object of interest” from geospatial imagery is a particularly useful tool for gathering military intelligence. Companies eyeing commercial markets utilizing similar AI technology should review this new control carefully to ensure that it will not impact current or future product lines. Comment period for this interim final rule is open until 6 March 2020. Submit a formal comment.

SPIE is gathering feedback from its community on the impact of this addition to the controls. If you would like to share comments with SPIE on this matter, please contact SPIE Government Affairs Director, Jennifer O’Bryan, at JenniferO@spie.org.


Other Policy News

On Behalf of the NSTC, the OSTP Posts Request for Information on the American Research Environment
26 November 2019

On behalf of the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested input on actions that Federal agencies can take, working in partnership with private industry, academic institutions, and non-profit/philanthropic organizations, to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the American research environment. Specific emphasis was placed on ensuring that the research environment is welcoming to all individuals and enables them to work safely, efficiently, ethically, and with mutual respect, consistent with the values of free inquiry, competition, openness, and fairness.

The main purpose of the RFI was to get the communities' response to how the federal government can best handle science and security matters. The comment period closed 23 December 2019. Read More.

Panel Urges NSF to Elevate Status of Materials Research
31 October 2019

An expert review panel has proposed that the National Science Foundation create a directorate dedicated to materials research as part of a broader effort to focus national attention on the field.  Read More

USTR to Consider Extending Certain Tariff Exclusions on $34 Billion of Chinese Imports
28 October 2019

The US Trade Representative (USTR) announced that they will consider an extension of tariff exclusions that have been previously granted and are set to expire on 28 December 2019. Extensions granted will be for a twelve-month period. Information on how to apply for an extension is provided in the Federal Register notice. The deadline for extension requests is 30 November 2019.

Read the USTR press release and access the forms here.

This announcement from USTR comes on the heels of another announcement from USTR on 25 October that the US and China are close to finalizing the first phase of a trade deal. Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has gone as far as to say phase one of a trade deal will be reached within the month of November. Though phase one of a deal is looking positive, China is less certain they will reach a deal on the remaining issues to be negotiated in phase two of the talks, which would require significant structural reforms in China and for the US to roll back the existing tariffs.  Read More

Stakeholders Chart Next Steps in National Quantum Initiative
6 June 2019

The White House convened a roundtable of federal agency and university leaders to discuss how best to structure new research centers and workforce development efforts created through the National Quantum Initiative.  Read More

Supporting the prioritization of photonics for Horizon Europe
15 February 2019

SPIE delivered the following letter to Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society advocating for the inclusion of photonics on the technology priority list for Horizon Europe, an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation program that will succeed Horizon 2020:

Dear Commissioner Moedas and Commissioner Gabriel,

On behalf of our nearly 4,000 individual members and 115 corporate members and the 5,000 photonics companies in Europe, SPIE the international society for optics and photonics, would like to encourage you to include Photonics on the technology priority list for Horizon Europe. The focus on Photonics as a Key Enabling Technology has been a critical driver in recent advancements in emerging and innovative fields like AR/VR, Autonomous Vehicles, Communications, Microelectronics, Space Technology and Industry 4.0, as well as vital foundational areas like security, data storage, health monitoring and agriculture, Photonics also underpins large-scale research efforts like the European Quantum Flagship, Extreme Light Infrastructure, the Human Brain Project, and international astronomy projects like ALMA and LISA.

The Horizon 2020 programme established Europe as a global leader in photonics research, technology and education. Continued prioritization and funding of this enabling technology by the European Commission is necessary to maintain a competitive global position in this innovative field that is at the heart of many critical and emerging technologies. Photonics fuels much of the world’s economic growth and impacts almost every facet of our lives from climate monitoring and communication to fabrication and noninvasive health care that reduces recovery time and cost. Photonics21 recently reported that the photonics sector is growing twice as fast as the global GDP and is expected to reach a production volume of €615 billion in 2020. The European Commission cannot afford to limit its leadership in Photonics at a time when innovation is determining the winners and loser of the new technology-driven economy. We encourage you to enhance the role of key technologies for European Union competitiveness and to include Photonics as an area of intervention in the new Horizon Europe Cluster on Digital and Industry.

About SPIE:
SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves 257,000 constituents from 173 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2018, SPIE provided more than $4 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. spie.org.

Kent Rochford

Download a copy of the letter here.

Congress Reshuffles Chairs of Science Panels
14 February 2019

The 116th Congress has ushered in new leaders for several committees with jurisdiction over science agencies.

The House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over science agencies have now finished filling out their leadership positions. These “authorization” committees conduct oversight of federal R&D programs and are gatekeepers for science policy legislation. Funding is handled through separate appropriations committees, which have also finished organizing for the current Congress.  Read More

Senate Confirms OSTP Director, Several Other Science Nominations Expire
4 January 2019

Just before the end of the 115th Congress, the Senate confirmed Kelvin Droegemeier as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Nominees to lead the DOE Office of Science, DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, ARPA-E, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were not considered.  Read More

National Quantum Initiative Signed into Law
28 December 2018

The enactment of the National Quantum Initiative Act on 21 December creates a comprehensive national policy to encourage quantum research and technology, and helps build a workforce capable of creating practical applications. The bipartisan legislation establishes a multi-agency program that spans the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy, and will include the formation of between four and ten competitively awarded research centers.

"The passage of this landmark bill delivers the exciting promise of a future-focused, technology-smart world," said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. "It's very welcome news, not just for the organizations involved in the National Photonics Initiative, but for the next generation of researchers, scientists, and consumers. As quantum technologies shift from the research stage to development and engineering, they are creating entirely new industries and opportunities for innovation. The bill establishes the collaborative framework that is needed to produce research breakthroughs that will ultimately lead to fully enabled quantum applications. The multi-year authorized funding provided in the bill makes clear the commitment the United States has to being a leader quantum information science and technology. SPIE stands ready to assist with implementation at the agencies involved, and to work with appropriators to fully fund this initiative."

Read the SPIE Press Release.

National Photonics Initiative Applauds Bipartisan Approval of NQI Act in U.S. Senate
14 December 2018

The National Photonics Initiative (NPI)—a broad-based collaborative alliance among industry, academia, and government to raise awareness of optics, photonics and quantum science and technology—is praising approval of the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives approved its own version of the NQI Act, H.R. 6227, earlier this year.

“The Senate’s action today will help ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in quantum research and development. We applaud Senate passage of the NQI Act and for moving our country closer to a comprehensive quantum technology policy” said Ed White, Chair of the NPI Steering Committee and Vice President Test, Assembly, and Packaging for AIM Photonics. “As quantum research advances from the laboratory to the marketplace, the NQI Act will help guide the use of resources and keep our nation’s scientists and researchers at the forefront of this critical field.”  Read the Press Release

Panel Urges Preparations for Future Quantum Computers
12 December 2018

A new National Academies report reviews challenges to building a practical quantum computer and states it is difficult to project when, if ever, such a device will be realized. However, it urges actions be taken now to pave the way for future advances and prepare for their consequences.  Read More

Astro2020 Decadal Survey Shifts into Gear
The National Academies has issued a statement of task and selected the leaders for the next decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics. Meanwhile, proponents of large projects are preparing their submissions for the survey.
7 December 2018

The National Academies announced on 28 November that astronomers Fiona Harrison and Robert Kennicutt will co-chair its next decadal survey for astronomy and astrophysics. Once complete, the survey will succeed the 2010 decadal survey as the authoritative encapsulation of the research community’s priorities. As such, it will provide critical guidance to NASA, the National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy as they plan their astronomy and astrophysics portfolios.  Read More

New Cryptography Must Be Developed and Deployed Now, Even Though A Quantum Computer That Could Compromise Today’s Cryptography Is Likely At Least A Decade Away, Says New Report
Report Details Risks and Benefits of Developing a Practical Quantum Computer, Identifies Metrics for Tracking Progress
4 December 2018

Given the current state of quantum computing and the significant challenges that still need to be overcome, it is highly unlikely that a quantum computer that can compromise public-key cryptography – a basis for the security of most of today’s computers and networks – will be built within the next decade, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. However, because replacing an established internet protocol generally takes over a decade, work to develop and deploy algorithms that are resilient against an attack by a quantum computer is critical now.  Read More

SPIE attends the launch of the Clúster Mexicano de Fotónica
25 November 2018

SPIE CEO Kent Rochford was on hand to witness and celebrate the launch of the Mexican Photonics Cluster (CMF - Clúster Mexicano de Fotónica) at an event in Toluca, Mexico 15 to 17 November. The CMF is a non-profit organization founded to promote and enhance optics and photonics innovation in Mexico, by strategically articulating business, academy, government, and society.

"Towards a brighter Mexico: Optics and photonics roadmap" was released by the Mexican Photonics Initiative (MPI), a joint collaboration between ProMéxico, the Mexican federal government agency devoted to promote the attraction of direct foreign investment and the export of goods and services, as well as the internationalization of Mexican companies in order to contribute to Mexico's economic and social development and strengthen the country's image as a strategic business partner, and the International Commission for Optics. Among the recommendations of this roadmap—and a critical factor to its success—is the establishment of a Mexican Photonics Cluster.  Download the roadmap

U.S. Government Seeks Information On How to Control Emerging Technology
Quantum, AI, Navigation, and Biotechnology are among the listed technologies
19 November 2018

As of 19 November, the U.S. Department of Commerce will start accepting comments on how to control certain technologies for export. This request stems from the concern that some technologies, which are still considered emerging, have not been evaluated for their national security risk, and therefore are currently not controlled through regulation.

Many of these emerging technologies are critical to the optics and photonics community and any changes to their classification for export control could have a broad impact, so it is vital that the industry help shape these decisions.

The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) released in the Federal Register for public inspection 16 November, lists the 14 technology areas that the U.S. government is evaluating, and requests comment on “criteria for defining and identifying emerging technologies.” The ANPRM also seeks assistance in identifying specific emerging technologies that are essential to the national security within these areas.  Read the SPIE news article to learn more.

2018 Midterm Election Results: Outlook for Science Policy
The 2018 midterm election’s immediate effects on federal science policy will manifest primarily through changes in the composition of congressional committees, with the Democratic takeover of the House bringing new leadership to science policy and spending panels.
8 November 2018

The 2018 midterm elections mark a return to divided government in Washington, with Democrats securing control of the House for the first time since 2010. Meanwhile, Republicans will add up to three seats to their current one-seat majority in the Senate.

Among the election’s most immediate consequences for science policy will be the handover of House committee leadership positions to Democrats at the start of the 116th Congress, which begins Jan. 3. Although the parties’ leaders of key science policy and appropriations panels will likely not be determined until weeks into the new year, there are clear frontrunners for certain positions and some influential members are retiring or were defeated.  Read More

NSF Scaling Up STEM Diversity Efforts with INCLUDES Network
To address the persistent underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields, the National Science Foundation has issued a set of major awards through its INCLUDES initiative to scale up promising strategies with a national network of projects.
2 November 2018

INCLUDES is entering a new phase. The National Science Foundation’s flagship initiative for increasing participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields is aiming to establish a national network of programs that can scale up successful strategies for tackling longstanding workforce disparities. After funding dozens of pilot projects over the past two years, NSF recently issued six major awards to establish a set of partnership-based projects and a national “coordination hub” for the INCLUDES effort.  Read More

Quantum Technologies Flagship Kicks Off with First 20 Projects
The Quantum Technologies Flagship, a €1 billion initiative, was launched today at a high-level event in Vienna hosted by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
18 October 2018

The Flagship will fund over 5,000 of Europe's leading quantum technologies researchers over the next ten years and aims to place Europe at the forefront of the second quantum revolution. Its long-term vision is to develop in Europe a so-called quantum web, where quantum computers, simulators and sensors are interconnected via quantum communication networks. This will help kick-starting a competitive European quantum industry making research results available as commercial applications and disruptive technologies. The Flagship will initially fund 20 projects with a total of €132 million via the Horizon 2020 programme, and from 2021 onwards it is expected to fund a further 130 projects. Its total budget is expected to reach €1 billion, providing funding for the entire quantum value chain in Europe, from basic research to industrialization, and bringing together researchers and the quantum technologies industry.  Read More

New U.S. Law Addresses Control of Emerging Technologies
Legislation could affect the future trade and growth of emerging photonic technologies.
11 October 2018

The current political and security climate has spurred interest in maintaining control of emerging technologies developed in the United States. How this is accomplished was a point of contention recently, as legislation titled the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) moved through the U.S. Congress and was passed into law.  Read More

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