Good Question: Is the new Rochester Photonics lab still in the works?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — What is the latest on photonics? Nearly a decade ago, state and federal leaders said photonics had the potential to change Rochester and New York State the way that Silicon Valley changed California.

“It was a big project, it still is a big project. It’s still very important for New York State, for Rochester, and for America,” said Tom Battley, executive director of Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster and New York Photonics.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense selected the Rochester area as the location for a Photonics Manufacturing Institute and an investment of hundreds of millions of federal dollars. Then-vice president Joe Biden visited the flower city to tour potential lab sites.

“I can think of no more promising place to do it than here in Rochester,” Biden said.

Eight years after the announcement and a viewer writes: “What ever happened with the photonics lab in Rochester?”

The lab is called AIM Photonics, short for the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics. It operates out of a former Eastman Kodak Building on Lake Ave in Rochester.

“When you get a big news splash, everyone expects for that to be sustained over time,” Battley said. “…It was a big deal when it got announced, it’s still a big deal, it’s just not as sexy.”

The institute on Lake Avenue is one of more than 100 photonics businesses in Rochester. It has another site in Albany.

Battley says the two sites have earned New York State a global reputation as a leader in photonics. At Photonics West, the biggest photonics conference in America, Battley says:

“There is no doubt that everyone there recognizes New York State and Rochester as one of the major centers for this in the world,” Battley said. “…Are we silicon valley yet? No. But this industry is growing and we’re recognized for that around the world. Rochester should be proud of that.”

Although we don’t always see headlines about photonics in the news, there is still a lot going on here behind the scenes in the industry.

The Greater Rochester Enterprise says on its website that our optics, photonics, and imaging industries combined generate more than $3.5 billion a year.

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