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Rochester scores major tech win


It's official: the Rochester region will get a massive investment of federal, state, and industry dollars to establish a Department of Defense-sponsored integrated photonics manufacturing institute.

The DOD announced plans for the institute in the fall and immediately solicited applications. A Rochester-based consortium, led by the SUNY Research Foundation but including University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology, made its bid.

On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden visited a SUNY Polytechnic Institute facility in Greece to announce the Rochester consortium's win.

Photonics refers to a broad group of technologies that use light. Applications include telecommunications, supercomputers and data centers, medical imaging and diagnostics, and defense technologies.

The Rochester region has a history of innovative companies that have worked in the science of light, including Kodak, Bausch and Lomb, and Xerox, Biden said. And when those companies declined, he said, smaller, innovative companies rose in their place.

"You've gone from making Brownie cameras to the lenses that are now mapping the far side of Pluto," Biden said.

The win means that the Rochester region will see substantial investment. The DOD is putting up $110 million toward the effort, while state and private industry have committed a combined $500 million.

The money will be used to establish open-access labs and manufacturing space in the region -- University of Rochester and RIT are two likely hosts -- and across the country. State, federal, academic, and industry representatives still have to pick sites.

The funds will also be used to establish the institute's headquarters in the Rochester region; the elected officials who pushed hardest for the funding want it downtown.

"Rochester, and I mean the City of Rochester, will be the headquarters for this effort," said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. "There are discussions going on. We're looking at places like the Sibley building as the potential headquarters."