Colorado Photonics Industry Thrives With Support From CU-Boulder

Published: Nov. 29, 2000

Editors: Reporters and photographers are invited to attend the next quarterly meeting of the Colorado Photonics Industry Association, hosted by CU-Boulder at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in the University Memorial Center's Glenn Miller Ballroom. Students will display their research in photonics at a poster session from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The photonics industry in Colorado is thriving with more than 200 companies and research and support organizations, significant new venture capital and a strong relationship with higher education statewide, thanks in large part to the efforts of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Four photonics companies in Boulder County alone have received a total of $188 million in additional venture funding since mid-October -- including two that license CU intellectual property and pay royalties to the university. The companies that recently received venture capital include Network Photonics, $106.5 million; Picolight, $39 million; Colorado Microdisplay, $35 million; and Colorlink, $7.5 million.

"These companies are commercializing technologies for telecommunications, networking and computer systems, and employing engineers and scientists who were educated in optics and optoelectronics at the University of Colorado," said Brian Hooker of the Optoelectronic Computing Systems Center in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Photonics is a core technology combining optics, electro-optics and optoelectronics that harnesses light for use in such products as compact discs, motion sensors, digital cameras and surgical lasers.

CU-Boulder has been a leader in the development of the Colorado photonics industry for 15 years, providing new technology, highly educated workers and other industry support. CU holds 55 patents in the field, has spun off 14 businesses, and hosts the Optoelectronic Computing Systems Center as well as the Optical Sciences and Engineering Program.

The Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of Denver also have educational programs in optics and optics-related fields, although CU-Boulder has the largest with more than two dozen faculty and 70 to 80 students. Photonics is an interdisciplinary field involving students and faculty in a variety of departments, including physics, chemistry and engineering.

CU-Boulder's Hooker also was a key organizer of the Colorado Photonics Industry Association, which has been active in providing workforce development and new business support. Results of these efforts include a technician training program now at Front Range Community College and the Colorado Advanced Photonics Technology Center, a facility at the Lowry campus where startup manufacturers can create prototypes for their products.

CU-Boulder will host the next meeting of the CPIA at the University Memorial Center's Glenn Miller Ballroom on Dec. 7. Students from the four Colorado campuses with optics programs will display their research in photonics at a poster session.

The Business Advancement Center, in CU-Boulder's College of Business and Administration, also has supported the photonics industry through research and analysis, culminating in the publishing of a directory of the companies, government laboratories, and business and research support organizations involved in photonics statewide.

"The sales of photonics components and products in Colorado is growing at a rapid rate and is expected to be between $1 billion and $2 billion in 2000," said Gary Horvath, a marketing analyst with the Business Advancement Center.