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SCCC to be part of NSF-funded regional consortium for photonics research

6/1/2023 2:36:05 PM

A new Princeton-led collaboration to drive economic and technological advancements in photonics – the branch of science that includes lasers, optical fibers and cutting-edge light-based innovations – has been awarded a development grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program.

Sussex County Community College will be part of this regional development grant with co-leaders, Princeton University and Rowan University. The grant will lay the groundwork for a multistate collaboration called Advancing Photonics Technologies that aims to advance research, transition discoveries into the economy, and build the region’s technological workforce.

The collaboration which includes universities and community colleges such as SCCC, photonics companies, statewide economic and workforce development programs, and technology accelerators and incubators that help transition research into startup companies.

Photonics, which involves the control of light for use in technologies, has applications in healthcare, clean energy, computing, telecommunications, advanced manufacturing and more. It has the potential to improve cancer detection, food safety, smartphones, computing and self-driving cars, among other uses.

The Advancing Photonics Technologies collaboration is one of more than 40 teams across the nation selected to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which provide up to two years of funding toward the planning of a multistate initiative to create economic, societal and technological opportunities for their regions. The awards enable the teams to prepare strong proposals for becoming future NSF Engines, which will each have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million to implement their plans.

“Sussex County Community College is honored to be among so many esteemed institutions in receiving the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards,” stated SCCC President Jon H. Connolly. “With this funding, we will be able to further enhance and invest in our Optics Technology program and provide even greater opportunities for our students. This will foster a transformative educational experience that prepares our students for success in an ever-changing world and we are deeply grateful for this recognition.”

“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation.

Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the “CHIPS and Science Act of 2022,” the NSF Engines program aims to catalyze robust partnerships, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create high-wage jobs.

“Photonics is one of the unseen gems of the New Jersey economy, providing thousands of good-paying jobs and leading global innovation,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Congratulations to Princeton University, Rowan University, and the many other New Jersey institutions of higher education, companies, and state agencies that are joining forces on this effort to affirm our state’s longstanding role as a leader in innovation.”

The initiative will focus on increasing opportunities for growth and participation in the photonics economy in ways that ensure diversity and equity while providing an inclusive and accessible environment.

The development grant enables the collaboration’s universities, community colleges, industry and state economic development agencies to plan a diverse and inclusive research and innovation ecosystem around photonics; expansive opportunities for the translation of technological and scientific breakthroughs from research labs to industry; and a robust pipeline for jobs creation and workforce development.

Growing research and innovation nationwide

“This initiative unites colleges and universities, startups, and established companies across our region to catalyze research, develop new technologies, create jobs and strengthen the economy,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “Princeton is proud to be part of this National Science Foundation program, which is helping to grow scientific research and technological innovation in every part of our nation.”

Princeton’s co-lead institution is Rowan University, a rapidly growing public research institution.

Brian Lake, Supervisor of the Optics Technology program at SCCC has received this grant for the College.  He will co-lead the Education and Workforce Development Working Group.

“Receiving this grant along with the other colleges and universities sets us apart in the Optics Technology field,” stated Brian Lake. “With this support, we have the power to impact the future.”

Partners in the collaboration include:

Universities and colleges


Statewide economic development agencies

Entrepreneurial incubators and accelerators

More information can be found on the NSF Engines program website.

For more information on how to start a rewarding career in Optics Technology, registration is open for the SCCC fall semester. Visit sussex.edu/apply. For more information on the Optics Technology program visit sussex.edu/opticstechnology.