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New WTC initiative helps Washington industry keep pace with the speed of light

For Immediate Release: January 19, 2001

Seattle - Washington Technology Center (WTC) has launched a new technology initiative that provides funding for research leading to the development of photonics systems products. Photonics, sometimes called optical systems, is the set of technologies used to generate and harness light. This initiative will stimulate the growth of Washington-based businesses that rely on innovation in these optical technologies.

Commercial growth in photonics has exploded recently with the introduction of revolutionary new materials and devices, especially for high-speed telecommunications. These higher speed and wider bandwidth systems, medical imaging and display systems, and industrial sensors represent the current products driving this rapid commercial growth.

"The optical component market is huge and we are still in the early days," said Scott Keeney, president and CEO of Seattle's nLight Photonics, a developer of high performance optical network components. "Bandwidth growth will demand continued improvements in optical components that are unparalleled in the history of technology."

Washington State has a growing number of established and emerging companies that are capitalizing on these new business opportunities. Significant technical challenges remain-new optical materials, high-speed switching, novel sensors, and manufacturing techniques for very small devices. Leveraging specific areas of expertise at the state's universities provides an excellent opportunity for the Technology Center's investments to have a positive impact on the continued growth of this industry. Key WTC investments through the Photonics Systems Initiative will drive technological innovation and market growth for companies in the state, placing Washington State at the forefront of this rapidly growing field.

"[WTC's initiative] …is very complementary to the strategic investments the UW has made to develop a center of excellence in photonics," says Alvin A. Kwiram, UW Vice Provost for Research. "The combined efforts of WTC and the UW should provide a solid base for major advances. The WTC investment is farsighted and timely, and provides an excellent example of the synergy between WTC programs and the initiatives at the research universities."

Eight projects, led by researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University, received funding from WTC in January totaling $396,000.

"The creation of this Photonics Systems Initiative by WTC is absolutely visionary," said Alex K.-Y. Jen, a nationally recognized UW researcher in optical materials. "Funding from this initiative will greatly accelerate the research programs in photonics at both universities and make them the driver for rapid industrial development in the state of Washington."

Alex Li, an associate professor of chemistry at WSU and a funding recipient, says, "WTC projects are filling the link between research in the universities and technology implementation in industries."

The projects fall into the following four technology areas:

All-Optical Devices
Focuses on developing optical devices that will process light directly without the need to convert to electrical signals. Applications of this technology include telecommunications, all-optical computing, optical storage, and optical amplification.

Optical Switches
Includes handling, routing and directing data-carrying light signals - analogous to a conventional electrical switch.

Micro-optic Fabrication
Focuses on developing lower cost, rapid prototyping processes for manufacturing micro-optic components.

Photonic Bandgap Structures (PBG)
PBGs, or photonic bandgap crystals, are materials in which precisely engineered structures generate useful optical effects, including light emission, filtering and routing.

Funding recipients:
Professor Martin Afromowitz, University of Washington Department of Electrical Engineering
Associate Professor Alexander D.Q. Li, Washington State University Department of Chemistry
Assistant Professor Daniel Chiu, University of Washington Department of Chemistry
Professor Alex K.-Y. Jen, University of Washington Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Assistant Professor Younan Xia, University of Washington Department of Chemistry
Research Scientist Eric Seibel, University of Washington Human Interface Technology Lab

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Southwest Washington companies get a boost for technology development

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2001

Vancouver, Wash. - On January 22, the Columbia River Economic Development Council and Washington Technology Center (WTC) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly share outreach activities in Southwest Washington.

"Washington Technology Center can be of immense benefit to the growing high tech community of Clark County and Southwest Washington," said Bart Phillips, president of the CREDC. "The agreement gives WTC an official presence in our community and will be a service we actively promote to the high tech sector to further their research and development efforts."

WTC is a statewide organization created to assist Washington in adopting technology by forming partnerships with university researchers. WTC projects allow joint development of new products, with the ultimate goal of growing the company and creating jobs. Over the past five years, WTC has supported eight projects with companies in the Vancouver area.

WTC was created by the Washington State Legislature in 1983 and is a sub-agency under the Washington State Office of Trade & Economic Development. WTC offers funds projects in the following technical areas: Advanced Materials & Manufacturing, Biotechnology/Biomedical Devices, Computer Systems, and Microelectronics.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council, founded in 1983, is a not-for-profit corporation promoting job creation and investment for the benefit of Clark County citizens. The services of WTC are a key portion of its initiative supporting the expansion of existing Clark County businesses. Jointly managed by a Board composed of local businesses and public officials, the CREDC provides business recruitment, business expansion and advocacy services.

Related external links (will open a new window):

  • Columbia River Economic Development Council

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