WORCESTER, MA – January 11, 2018 – Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a $4 million grant to support the launch of the AIM Photonics ‘Lab for Education & Application Prototypes’ (LEAP), a partnership between Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Quinsigamond Community College (QCC). The Worcester-based R&D facility will support product development in the emerging field of integrated photonics, which have applications in the development of autonomous vehicles, data storage and telecommunications. The lab will support Massachusetts companies pursuing a transition into the integrated photonics supply chain, by expanding opportunities for research & development, entrepreneurship opportunities and creating new workforce development and educational programs.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito made the announcement at Worcester Polytechnic Institute with leaders from WPI and QCC. The award is being made under the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2), which provides a vehicle for the Commonwealth to match federal investments made in the Manufacturing USA institutes, including AIM Photonics (American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics). The new LEAP facility will work collaboratively with AIM Photonics, the AIM Photonics Academy based at MIT, and other academic, industrial, and government organizations associated with the integrated photonics to help drive business in this emerging sector.
“This investment continues to expand the Commonwealth’s commitment to innovation, technology and education,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is pleased to support the advanced manufacturing sector here in Massachusetts, bringing critical R&D access closer to growing photonics companies and to strengthen investments in our leading academic institutions, including WPI and QCC.”
The new Worcester-based facility will be the second center of this type in Massachusetts, following the launch of MIT’s LEAP in Spring 2017 and is part of the national photonics initiative announced by the Commonwealth in August 2015. The administration’s investment in the LEAP at WPI builds on federal investments and will support the development of a string of integrated photonics research hubs across Massachusetts, with a focus on the I-90 corridor which stretches toward AIM Photonics’ national headquarters and fabrication facility in Albany, NY, and the AIM Photonics Test Assembly and Packaging facility in Rochester, NY.
“I am pleased to announce this grant supporting research and development in integrated photonics to WPI and QCC here in Central Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “By establishing this network of facilities, the Commonwealth will play a leading role in the global development of these innovative technologies and continue to support the development of advanced manufacturing companies in the region.”
The lab will be accessible to employers from across the Commonwealth, with an emphasis on regional employers in the photonics manufacturing sector, and will engage manufacturers interested in specific product development projects or prototyping needs. The LEAP will also play a strong role in workforce training, developing curriculum with key partners that will target students at two and four year colleges, as well as at the K-12 level. WPI and QCC will collaborate with companies in the Central Mass region to inform the development of the LEAP and work with the MA Manufacturing Extension Partnership to provide access to manufacturers across Massachusetts.
“This investment is part of a larger effort to foster the future of photonics, an exciting and emerging industry, here in Massachusetts,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “WPI and QCC’s new partnership will add much needed capacity to our robust workforce training efforts, connecting students and residents to job opportunities at innovative companies.”
“A key part of the Commonwealth’s programs to support R&D, including M2I2, is to strengthen and build upon the ties between our innovative manufacturing companies and our leading research institutions,” said Tim Connelly, Executive Director/CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “As WPI and QCC roll out this new Lab, the input from these Massachusetts photonics companies will be critical to developing successful training and product development programs.”
As noted on the AIM Photonics website, integrated photonics will “allow designers and manufacturers to put thousands of photonic components (such as lasers, detectors, wave guides, modulators, electronic controls, and optical interconnects) together on a single chip, allowing capabilities that were not previously possible.” By boosting R&D in this sector, Massachusetts could play a global leadership role in advancing products that utilize integrated photonics applications, including autonomous vehicles, data storage, telecommunications, radar, and other sensor-based applications.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for WPI to bolster the photonics activities in the Northeast corridor, and to collaborate with our corporate and academic partners in providing critical workforce training that will serve a number of important industries,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “We’re delighted to work with our longtime colleague, Quinsigamond Community College, to facilitate the AIM Photonics lab, which we believe will have a significant economic impact on the region.”
“The collaboration between QCC, WPI and AIM Photonics combines the core strengths of each institution to help drive the future of advanced manufacturing in the region through accelerated photonics innovation and workforce development and training,” said QCC President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja.” Photonics technology is the wave of the future. Integrated photonics offers manufacturers the ability to put thousands of photonic components on a single chip, delivering unprecedented efficiencies and capabilities for today and for years to come. We must think beyond the confines of the past and look toward the future. LEAP is a giant step for the manufacturing, educational, and workforce development sectors in Central Massachusetts and beyond.”
“Our economy thrives when innovative companies harness the Commonwealth’s world-class colleges and universities for scientific research and development,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler. “This research funding will foster innovation for Central Massachusetts and the entire Commonwealth.”
“Our educational institutions in Worcester continue to represent the very best of what our city has to offer,” said Representative John Mahoney. “This award provides an excellent opportunity for students and businesses alike to grow in this unique and burgeoning tech sector, and I look forward to working on further investment to its development.”
The Baker-Polito Administration has committed more than $100 million in funding over five years to the M2I2 effort, which provides a vehicle for the Commonwealth to invest in the national Manufacturing USA initiative, helping advance innovation and job growth by spurring cross-collaboration among companies, universities, national labs, government, incubators, accelerators, and other academic/training institutions. The federal awards are leveraged several times over through a series of state and industry matches.
In October 2017, Governor Baker announced nearly $4 million in M2I2 grants to three Massachusetts-based integrated photonics projects at UMass Amherst. The Baker-Polito Administration also celebrated the announcement of Massachusetts role in the national AIM Photonics effort in August 2015, which was the Commonwealth’s first successful proposal under the federal National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) competition. In addition to integrated photonics, Massachusetts is a participant in regional manufacturing innovation institute nodes focused on advanced functional fabrics, flexible hybrid electronics, robotics, and biopharma manufacturing.
M2I2 investments are co-managed by the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development and the public economic development agency, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). Massachusetts manufacturers interested in applying for grants through the M2I2 program can visit http://m2i2.masstech.org to learn more about the process.
Launched by the Baker-Polito Administration in 2016, the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) aims to help Massachusetts manufacturers adopt innovative new technologies and guides the state’s investment in the Manufacturing USA program. The Administration has committed $100 million-plus in funding to support M2I2 projects across the Commonwealth; the investments are managed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. Through the creation of sector-specific Manufacturing USA Centers, M2I2 will advance innovations and job growth within the state through cross-collaboration among companies, universities, national labs, government, incubators, accelerators, and other academic and training institutions.