In This Issue
OIDA Global Competitiveness in Optoelectronics
Combined R&D Overcapacity and R&D Dollar Shortage Equal Labor Shortage and Industry Slide In U.S.
The Annual OIDA Competitiveness Conference provides executives and investors with an overview of the largest growth sectors in the industry and identifies issues of concern for industry health, for which OIDA then attempts to provide advocacy. This year overall industry-wellness concerns focused upon the declining statistics for science and technology education in the US and the steadily declining investment in R&D.
The basic premise is that R&D investment, primarily measured as combined government and private investment (except in Asia where that data is not easily distinguished) has a direct correlation to industry dominance. There are secondary data sets that show that student career selection is also proportional to industry investment. Therefore, the declining math scores in K-12 education and the declining number of advanced degrees awarded in math and the physical sciences combined with the declining number of patents issued to US entities are all major predictors of loss of industry dominance to Asia, specifically China and Korea.
Dr. Cecilia Merzbacher, Assistant Director for Technology R&D in the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), talks about this as “the innovation ecosystem” in which she defines the elements as:
OSTP has published priorities which are to support world class R&D, support tech transfer and build out the infrastructure needed to support research. She notes that Universities have overbuilt capacity for research in that the dollars required to fill available research capacity exceed any funding plans published by the government which provides 90% of US R&D funding. She postulated that this might be bridged by more effective collaborations between Universities and Industry, hence look for government funding to reward those collaborations.
Mike Quear from Congressman David Wu’s office (Democrat, Oregon) spoke to the success of getting budgets for NSF, DOE and NIST doubled, although the appropriations have yet to be made. Both government speakers stated that congressional support for technology funding, particularly through the SBIR/STTR programs and the new Technology Innovation Program (TIP), which replaces the controversial Advanced Technology Program (ATP). Dr. Merzbacher said that letters to congresspeople helping them understand the importance of the major science agencies to your business would be helpful to reinforce the merit of government funded research.
The industry sectors that OIDA is monitoring for growth based upon recent history and predicted future-need are:
Overall growth of these markets from 2007 revenue of $~290B to over $600B in 2017, with consumer displays, computing and solar accounting for over half of the growth. The global photonics components market is forecasted to grow from $315B in 2006 to $675B in 2017 with flat panel display being the most significant market sector. All segments combined showed 13% growth from 2005 to 2006. Emerging trends are the energy sector and the “greening” of photonics in applications and production methods.
The OIDA Competitiveness in Global Optoelectronics Conference was held December 4th and 5th in Washington D.C.
Other Highlights from Recent Events
On November 16, 2007 The International Photonics, Food, & Agriculture Conference was held in Canandaigua, NY. Hosted by a group of Photonics, Agriculture and University partners, the event included a number of excellent presentations. Of particular relevance to this month's RRPC newsletter was one by Daniel Schmoldt from the US Department of Agriculture, concerning R&D expenditure data.
The recommendation is to download the presentation and follow along with the video. Thanks to David Gottfried at Javelin for technical help getting these posted.
Video of the presentation here.
Download the presentation with no video here.
High Technology Companies Can Pay Less New York State Tax
On December 12, 2007, the RRPC hosted a QETC (qualified emerging technology company) tax credit seminar in Rochester. It still comes as something of a surprise to companies, attorneys and CPA's extolling the benefits of these New York State tax credits that qualifying companies do not pursue them (the credits, that is).
The presentation from the event (3.1MB) is downloadable here. If you do not know where you stand as a company that may qualify for QETC credits, forward the presentation to your accountant and ask questions. You can also call the contacts listed in the presentation.
Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar
The DoD SBIR 2008.1 solicitation is open for proposal submission from December 10, 2007 through 6 a.m. EST January 9, 2008. Seven DoD components have R&D topics in this solicitation under which Phase I proposals are sought:
The Solicitation, which contains detailed information on the parameters of the SBIR program and how to submit a proposal, and Topics are available here.
You may also search the topics by going here.
The training will be provided by the Greenwood Consulting Group. Gail and Jim Greenwood, nationally recognized SBIR/STTR trainers, will provide a full-day SBIR training seminar Tuesday, January 15, 2008. (exact times to be announced)
The seminar will focus on Phase-2 SBIR/STTR proposals and budgeting and will include:
The seminar will end with a summary of government cost accounting as it pertains to SBIR/STTR proposals and projects.
Lumetrics Continues on Growth Path
New Investment to Fund Continuing Growth
Lumetrics, Rochester-based precision manufacturer of world-class measurement technology, announced a major new investment to support the company’s continued growth. Lumetrics, whose 2007 revenues doubled from the previous year, started 2007 with 7 employees and has grown to 13 at end-of-year, with plans for 21 employees in Rochester by the end of 2008. These additional resources will fuel the projected doubling of revenues for 2008.
The investors, Stonehenge Growth Capital, based in New York City, and a new undisclosed investor, will fund new product development and expanded sales and marketing efforts as Lumetrics increases its presence in targeted markets.
“We see great potential for Lumetrics in the markets it is addressing”, said Brian Model, Director, Stonehenge Growth Capital. “Our experience supports continued investment in companies showing such strong growth.”
The continued investment will strengthen Lumetrics’ full solution sales approach to existing markets. “Our customers want a partner to them help solve problems, not simply an instrument supplier.” explained Steve Heveron-Smith, Vice President, Sales & Marketing.
Lumetrics has established itself as a premier player in the medical, ophthalmic and precision glass markets, and has made significant inroads into the film and packaging industries. The Company's’ continued growth is the result of consistent repeat business from its existing customer base and early adoption by major industry leaders.
“The market response has been tremendous for Lumetrics' products,” said Heveron-Smith. “In addition to our ground breaking OPTI-GAUGE technology, we continue to enhance our customers’ inspection capabilities with precision fixtures, unique applications, advanced statistics generation and process control loops for both at-line and online quality control.”
RIT Opens Nanoimaging Laboratory
Rochester Institute of Technology Forms New Lab
Richard Hailstone, Associate Professor of Nanoimaging and Professor Ryne Raffaelle of the School of Imaging Science hosted the grand opening of the RIT NanoImaging Laboratory on Friday, December 7.
The newly-innaugurated laboratory includes equipment for:
Faculty and students were on-hand for the event which included a number of posters.
Cornell Team Increases the Speed of Optical Switching On Silicon
At the Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization, one of the goals is to connect cutting-edge Cornell research to product development efforts in industry.
Professor Michal Lipson and a team of Cornell researchers have invented small (~20 um), fast (up to 40 Gbits/sec or Gbps), CMOS compatible optical and electro-optical switching devices. Cornell’s switches can be used to build silicon photonic devices for different applications, including optical logic and multiplexers.
Recent developments in photonics holds promise to enable the next generation of computer applications through enhanced networking and connectivity speeds. While other electro-optical technologies rely on multiplexing to obtain switching speeds of 40 Giga Bits per Second (Gbps), Cornell’s technology has demonstrated this rate with a single silicon device. Prof. Lipson’s optical switching technologies have been used in applications such as an all-optical logic circuit (operations at 310 Mbps have been demonstrated) and a wave division multiplexor (Tbps data transfer rates are possible). It is important to note that one of the logic circuits demonstrated was a NAND gate because NAND gates are functionally complete and can be used to build any logic circuit or device.
Paper, patents pending, and published papers here.
Monroe Community College Using Grants for Optical Fabrication Workforce
MCC’s Office of Workforce Development has secured grants to help expand and support the recruitment and training of optical fabricators. In 2006, MCC obtained a DOL WIRED grant for $93,000 to help develop career pathway (apprenticeship) programs to help develop worker skills within several key industries within the Finger Lakes region. This program is structured similarly to a traditional apprentice program such that workers follow an on-the-job training regimen that is complimented by classroom instruction.
MCC created the model program to help Rochester’s optical fabrication employers grow their own qualified technicians. Chosen to participate, entry-level workers receive specific on-the-job skill training paired with predetermined academic courses.
“The combination of academic classes and structured on-the-job training offer a proven formula for ascending many of today’s technical career paths,” states James Winston, assistant to the president for workforce development.
A grant from the Corning Foundation helped cover costs of the classroom training. An initial nine students started this fall and a total of 21 workers are expected to start in the Spring 2008 semester.
Ross Micali was hired to work directly with optics companies to help set up their internal training structure, enroll workers into the ‘apprentice’ structure, assess workers’ academic skills and begin scheduling classroom instruction. Ross has launched an inaugural class of ‘trainees’ and is the process of recruiting for the next class to begin in the Spring 2008.
MCC started working with optical fabrication companies to set up their internal training structure, enroll workers into the apprentice structure, assess workers’ academic skills, and begin classroom instruction. A grant from the Corning Foundation helped cover costs of the classroom training. An initial nine students started this fall and a total of 21 workers are expected to start in the Spring 2008 semester.
Interested employers can e-mail Ross Micali, program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 585.292.3738 for details.
|Special Anniversary Report: The Center for Optics Manufacturing 20 Years Later||
The COM Still Paying Dividends
Since the inception of the University of Rochester’s Center for Optics Manufacturing (COM) in the late 1980’s, extraordinary progress has been made in developing new techniques and methods for creating precision optical elements more efficiently and effectively.
We thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the COM's 20th anniversary by tracing a story that illustrates some of its success and impact.
The concept for COM emerged as something of a national security issue. Increasingly during the 1980's, precision optics manufacturing was being outsourced overseas. For large OEM's, far east outsourcing was a boon that allowed them to dramatically lower costs and boost profits. But to small and medium-sized companies and military / economic development interests this was viewed with some alarm. Outsourcing was a threat to both U.S.-based manufacturers and to the development of optical components for security-sensitive industries such as the military and semiconductor capital equipment industries.
Because of its prominence in optical manufacturing, Rochester was a natural place for U.S. security interests; large manufacturers such as Texas Instruments and Eastman Kodak; the American Precision Optics Manufacturers Association (APOMA), and the University of Rochester to undertake research on new technologies that would help the U.S. maintain its strategic advantage in the manufacturing of precision optical components. Among the many who played important roles in COM's development at the time were Duncan Moore (now the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester), and the late Harvey Pollicove, The COM's first (and only) Director, who was with Eastman Kodak at the time.
The COM was established, a public-private collaborative, funded primarily by government funding. Harvey Pollicove was initially "on loan" from Eastman Kodak, and later, made the move permanent as Executive Director. The Mission of COM: to modernize and automate optics manufacturing. (some press releases from the time are still available on the web.)
While the COM no longer exists, companies and manufacturing breakthroughs born from research done at COM are flourishing today. Among these profitable and growing companies are QED Technologies, Optipro Systems, and Optimax Systems, all based in Rochester, New York. But the COM’s influence doesn’t stop there. These three companies are suppliers, purchasers, and technology enablers for a large number of companies both regionally and worldwide.
In October, we had the opportunity to visit the people who run each of these companies to find out what they are doing today and discuss their experiences.
First Stop: QED Technologies
We sat down with company president, Don Golini, the founder of QED. QED’s CNC-based magnetorheological polishing process came from work initially done at the COM and has paid off for the company and its customers. QED, now owned by Cabot Microelectronics, employs 60 people and has an installed base of over 100 machines worldwide. The firm is known for its magnetorheological finishing technology (MRF), developed at the COM, and also for its breakthrough Subaperture Stitching Interferometry (SSI), technology, developed more recently for asphere metrology.
In part because of early relationships established through work done at the COM, QED has been able to leverage SBIR funding through the years to underwrite some of its R&D efforts. This year, in fact, QED was selected as a winner of the 2007 Tibbetts Award, named for Roland Tibbetts, acknowledged as the father of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. These prestigious national awards are made annually to small firms, projects, organizations and individuals judged to exemplify the very best in SBIR achievement. QED is one of 55 companies in the U.S. to receive this award and was selected from over 4,000 companies that receive contracts and grants under the SBIR program each year.
While QED may have been very successful pursuing SBIR contracts, Golini maintains that QED was founded with a solid business plan, sound market concepts, and an understanding of who their potential customers were. That practical business model is what enabled them to attract private funding, and ultimately succeed. Golini maintains that trying to fund the company "with an idea and an SBIR grant" was never an option.
“Over time SBIR contracts with those agencies funded R&D projects within the company, but founding the company based upon funding from an SBIR contract simply would not have worked,” says Golini. “We already had established relationships within the Defense community, relationships that started when we were at COM and which we nurtured through the years. I’d say that more often than not those sort of ongoing relationships are crucial to successful SBIR funding, and we were in a good position to pursue them.”
And pursue them they did. Since its beginning in 1996, QED participated in over 20 Phase I and II SBIR contracts, primarily for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and NASA. Many references to those contracts are still up on the web, such as this one here.
In July 2006, QED became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cabot Microelectronics Corp. This elevated the firm and its R&D projects to a level where R&D investment dollars can no longer be provided through SBIR, but now come from the revenue sources one expects to see with a publicly-traded corporation.
In 2007 QED was also the recipient, in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Zygo Corporation, of an R&D 100 Award, granted by R&D Magazine for the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace in the past year.
Next Stop: OptiPro Systems
Another local optical equipment manufacturing company with part of its roots at the COM is Optipro. When the first CNC-based optical grinding concepts were being developed and tested, the researchers at the COM were fortunate to have a machine tool manufacturer located in the same town. Known then by the name CNC Systems, Optipro changed its name in 1997 in order to reflect its additional focus on machining glass parts as well as metal.
Today Optipro employs 25 people in Ontario, NY, manufacturing machinery that shapes both optical and metal components. The firm is also a value-added reseller of CAD/CAM software and has developed its own line of polishing equipment, partially underwritten with SBIR contracts.
According to Mike Bechtold, President at Optipro, the company has been awarded nine SBIR contracts since developing the first prototype for the COM; five Phase I awards and four Phase II's. Optipro was recently awarded a Phase II extenson.
Bechtold agrees with Golini's assessment of the SBIR program. "The technical contacts (TPOC's) that we made from the days of the COM have changed over time," says Bechtold, "but the folks at the agencies that we work with today are traceable to those very first contacts we made through the COM. And the SBIR contracts would not have happened without them. Those relationships are critical."
Again, one need only type the search terms "OptiPro" and "SBIR" into any search engine to find references such as the one here.
Bechtold also credits Optipro's long-standing relationship with the University of Rochester Mechanical Engineering Department as crucial to Optipro's ongoing success:
"The team at the U of R: Steve Burns, Paul Funkenbusch, Sheryl Gracewski, and John Lambropoulos are a fantastic group to work with. They have helped us tremendously."
Optipro's focus is mainly on the North American market. With an installed base of approximately 100 machines over a customer-base of about 75 customers (one of them in Japan) Optipro machinery grinds and polishes optical components and is sometimes the first step in manufacturing process that may include final polishing on a QED machine -- when trying to achieve 8th or 10th wave results for instance.
Optipro introduced its own Ultraform Finishing polishing machinery in 2007, and the first two machines from that line are installed at the Electro Optics Center at Penn State and at Kreischer Optics Ltd, in McHenry, Illinois.
November was a record month for Optipro in all three areas of the company: metalworking machinery, optical manufacturing machinery, and CAD CAM software sales.
Across the street from Optipro sits Optimax Systems, Inc. where we toured one of the largest optical manufacturing workshops in the U.S. Just about every possible system for the manufacture of high performance lenses is implemented in this 40,000 sq.ft. facility, including machines manufactured by both Optipro and QED, but also including leading-edge equipment from Zygo, Satisloh, Schneider and others.
Optimax, in fact, was based upon a business model that including the early adoption of technologies being developed at the COM. The lean manufacturing cells on the Optimax production floor include many permutations of conventional and automated optical fabrication equipment complimented by interferometry at each cell. Optimax uses several generations of Opticam machines. In fact, the original research platform built for COM by OptiPro in 1990, dubbed "The Computerized Optical Generator" -- the "COG" -- is still hard at work within a lean cell at Optimax. QED MRF and SSI technology reside in a stand-alone cell at Optimax (although tours don't allow visitors to visit the asphere manufacturing cell, so we aren't certain what goes on in there.)
According to company VP , Rick Plympton, MRF is not yet needed in each cell. "As customer-driven tolerances and requirements get tighter we can envision a future where certain lean cells will include MRF polishing. We are always evaluating new technologies as part of our continuous improvement cycle."
Optimax promises its customers "Precision optics in one week ." Customers wanting that turnaround time pay a premium of course, but the company has been growing by 20% per year for the past few years, an indication of the demand for the services that Optimax provides. Another indication of that demand is the fact that Optimax is at 145 employees and planning to hire 40 more in 2008.
This year Optimax was awarded a "Manufacturing Assistance Program" (MAP) Grant from New York State for $230,000 to assist them in capital equipment upgrades and additions.
Gary Conners and Conger Gable, two of the founders of GG&C Imaging both say that a company such as GG&C could not exist in any place other than Rochester, NY. GG&C makes optical systems for commercial and government purposes. In 2005 the company landed a $750,000 SBIR contract with the U.S. Army Research Office, built upon research done at University of Rochester Institute of Optics, and reported in Optics & Photonics News in December, 2002. (See the paper here.)
The nature of the business requires the rapid optical prototyping services that it is able to source in Rochester from companies born out of the COM.
When asked, Gary Conners, co-founder of GG&C suggests that the company could not have grown in any other place but Rochester, NY. The proximity to other companies such as QED and Optimax is immensely valuable to the success of their company.
"The prototyping capabilities available using those two companies as service providers has significantly accelerated our development, no doubt about it." asserts Conners. "There is no place other than Rochester where you find the network of suppliers, services and talent that you find here."
Another firm benefitting from its proximity to a company that grew out of the COM is Lumetrics. Lumetrics licensed and commercializes a laser interferometric thickness-measurement technology developed by Eastman Kodak. While their customer-base is global, and nearly all outside of Western New York, they do have a significant and growing installed base in the region.(see Lumetrics story above in this newsletter.)
One of Lumetrics' new customers happens to be Optipro. The company recently purchased one of Lumetrics' instruments as part of an SBIR contract they have with the Navy. Lumetric's unique light pen device can measure through an optical component, including infra-red materials, lending itself to the development of Optipro's five-axis metrology system for the measurement of future domes and conformal optics.
"A machine tool company with its roots in the COM is conducting research sponsored by an SBIR contract with the Navy twenty years later, in order to develop a metrology system for high-precision optical manufacturing, and ends up buying an instrument developed and commercialized in the same town in order to advance the project. Where else but in Rochester?" says Lumetrics' President & CEO, John Hart.
Today the Center For Optics Manufacturing no longer exists. Its laboratories have been absorbed into the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. Some in the industry find it hard to fathom that leading edge technology was developed there, and having accomplished that mission, the COM was no longer needed. Surely, they suggest, new technologies, new materials, new processes for optical fabrication will continue to evolve, and a Center like the COM would be at the forefront. Yet without Harvey Pollicove at the helm, the leadership and the funding stream for the Center were both gone.
Others suggest that the COM was at the leading edge of a tsunami of government-funded research centers both within and outside of Universities, all clamoring for their own funding, and that it was displaced by other Centers for Excellence promising, and lobbying heavily in favor of the next big thing. Innovation, commercialization, mems and nanotech were certainly not the buzzwords twenty years ago that they are today.
As noted elsewhere in this month's newsletter, The President's Office of Science and Technology Policy has stated that, "Universities have overbuilt capacity for research in that the dollars required to fill available research capacity exceed any funding plans published by the government -- which provides 90% of US R&D funding."
The work done at the COM resulted in successes for companies such as Optipro, QED, Moore Nanosystems, Satisloh, Optimax and many others, including advances in industries such as photolithography, defense, and biomedical optics. The technology developed at the COM will pay off for years to come.
One cannot help but wonder, though, what new and perhaps disruptive technology will impact the manufacturing of optics in the future. It isn't being developed at the Center for Optics Manufacturing. Where will it be created and by whom?
Good Luck To Us All In The Coming New Year!
In closing an issue of the newsletter that covered so much news pertaining to government-funded research and development, there are these words:
"In this (technological) revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government."
Copyright 2007, Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, Inc.
New York Photonics and The Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster (RRPC) are not-for-profit organizations founded to promote and enhance the New York State photonics, optics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia and government.