SPIE Fellows Among Recipients of NSF Awards to Seed Regional Economic Development
SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, congratulates the more than 40 principal investigators and institutions that have been named recipients of inaugural US National Science Foundation (NSF) Engine Development Awards. The awardees included projects led by SPIE Fellows Thomas Brown at the University of Rochester, New York, USA, and Craig Arnold at Princeton University.
Through these planning awards of as much as $1 million, NSF says it is “seeding the future for communities to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships.” The development awards are the first step in a broader NSF effort to create regional “engines” of research and workforce development that the agency says it will fund to the tune of $160 million for up to 10 years.
The NSF Engines program supports projects across all key technology and challenge areas as outlined in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, including artificial intelligence, high-performance computing or semiconductors, quantum information technology, robotics, technology for disaster prevention, communications technology, bioengineering, data storage, energy, and materials.
Under Arnold’s direction, Princeton University will lead an exploratory initiative to advance photonics research and workforce development in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. Working with co-lead institution, Rowan University, the collaboration will involve other regional public and private universities, community colleges and photonics companies, as well as partners in entrepreneurship, workforce development, and economic development.
“Photonics will play a crucial role in pushing 21st century applications to be cleaner, smarter, and more secure,” Arnold said. “To enable this technology and expand its reach, we aim to grow a robust, diverse photonics workforce that is tightly integrated within an ecosystem of continuous innovation and use-inspired research.”
Arnold’s co-principal investigator at Rowan U. is industry expert Robert V. Chimenti whose research focuses on new laser and spectroscopy applications, with an eye toward developing novel instrumentation for commercialization. Chimenti says he is deeply committed to workforce development opportunities and alternate pathways for non-traditional students via the NSF program.
Regional partners will include companies such as Edmund Optics, Go!Foton, Hamamatsu, Nokia Bell Labs, and Thorlabs.
At the U. of Rochester, Brown says an innovation engine built on advancing laser technologies will provide the seed money and the tools to “establish something very special in the region by combining the highest quality research with the broadest accessibility to education and training.”
Regional partners will include area employers like Corning, L3Harris, Optimax, and Toptica; academic institutions such as the U. of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Monroe Community College; economic organizations such as Empire State Development, Greater Rochester Enterprise, and Nextcorps; and manufacturing institutes such as AIM Photonics.
“Combined with partner organizations nearby and across the country, the project will build an unparalleled technical and economic community to benefit every part of our region,” Brown says.
In addtion, SPIE Fellow Joseph Shaw is a co-principal investigator for the Advancing Autonomous Systems Technologies in the Northern Front project, which is led by Mark Askelson at the University of North Dakota.