WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that they are urging the Department of Defense to select a proposal led by a team that includes the University of New Mexico in a competition to create a national photonics hub. The team, a collaboration of academic institutions from New Mexico and three other states, was named a finalist earlier this year. If selected, it will receive federal funding and support and become part of a network of regional manufacturing institutes or "hubs" across the country that help bridge the gap between applied research and product development. The hub would spur the development of cutting-edge technology and create high-tech jobs in the Albuquerque area.
The New Mexico congressional delegation has strongly supported the UNM team's application, which would establish the first such manufacturing hub west of the Mississippi as part of the Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI) program. Photonics technologies are used in robotics, medical imaging, next-generation displays, defense, biometric security and many other fields. The group could receive $110 million in federal grant matching funds to develop a partnership between industry, government and academia to accelerate the creation of new photonics technologies. UNM would serve as the lead sensing hub, focusing on the development of integrated phonic sensors for chem-bio sensing.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, all five members of New Mexico's congressional delegation expressed their strong support for the proposal.
"This team will bring together government, industry and academia to develop this manufacturing ecosystem here in the U.S. They have broad talents and proven track records in microelectronics and chip packaging, as well as significant expertise in world-class photonics manufacturing," the letter reads. "New Mexico’s unique capabilities in Mid Infrared photonic systems have served our DOD and commercial industries for decades. UNM will stand up the New Mexico Hub on Sensing-Integrated Manufacturing for Mid-infrared Photonic Applications Technology (IMMPACT) which will work toward self-sufficiency."
"The U.S. photonics industry currently supports more than 100,000 high-paying jobs, a number that could double within the next decade as new photonic-electronic chips find their way into products and technologies across many industries,” the letter continues. "The combined team’s established research and development in critical areas of this technology, coupled with its electronics and photonics packaging expertise, will build a pipeline of innovation and talent for this high-tech industry."
The UNM team is led by the Information Science Institute at the University of Southern California and also includes the University of California system schools in Los Angeles, San Diego and Berkeley; Arizona State University; and Ohio State University. The team is competing against two others based in New York and Florida. Full and final applications are due by March 31, and the final selection is expected in June 2015.