SPIE endorses updated Endless Frontier Act considered by US Congress

The Society is calling on its US-based Membership to contact their representatives and voice their support for the bill
21 April 2021
Image of US Capitol: SPIE endorses updated Endless Frontier Act considered by US Congress

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA — SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is fully supporting the new version of the Endless Frontier Act introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) in the Senate and Congressmen Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) in the House of Representatives today.

In addition to Senators Young and Schumer, the Endless Frontier Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah). In the House of Representatives additional cosponsors include Susan Wild (D-PA), Mike Turner (R-OH), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

The updated version of the bill, originally introduced to Congress last year, incorporates additional community input and places a high priority on the commercialization of technology. The latest version retains the core focus of the original draft, establishing a new technology directorate within the National Science Foundation (NSF) designed to strengthen US leadership in critical technologies through fundamental research in key technology areas. It also retains the overall authorization number of $100 billion over five years for carrying out the mission of this new directorate.

Key technology-focus areas highlighted in the bill cover a range of optics and photonics-related technologies, from AI, biotechnology, and semiconductors, to quantum computing, advanced communications technology, and cybersecurity.

In addition, authorities provided to the new directorate will afford it the ability to develop alternative review processes, as well as flexible hiring authorities. This will allow the directorate to apply a similar approach to that of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), one that provides program managers the ability to fund targeted R&D outcomes of grant proposals quickly rather than through multi-step review processes.

"SPIE has long been a supporter of applied research and the practical applications of light," noted SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. "These areas of science continue to impact our lives with real-world products and technologies. This new role proposed for the NSF, with its focus on technology advancement and commercialization, would have an immensely positive impact on the optics and photonics community as well as on the US economy. It is our hope that this new directorate, with its substantially different approach to research funding and development, will increase the number of optics and photonics-related technologies emerging from labs and being used in real world applications."

SPIE urges the US-based optics and photonics community to contact their elected representative to register support for this bill and request their co-sponsorship.

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 more than 258,000 constituents from 184 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2020, SPIE provided over $5 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. www.spie.org.

Daneet Steffens
Public Relations Manager
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