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MIRTHE at SPIE Defense, Security & Sensing '12
MIRTHE Hosts Commercialization Workshop at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing Symposium

By Phillip Braun, MIRTHE Special Projects Manager


SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, invited MIRTHE to organize a workshop on speeding commercialization of mid-infrared (mid-IR) technologies for defense and security applications at this year's SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing (DSS) Symposium, held in Baltimore, MD from April 23-27. Addressing a capacity audience, presenters from both government and private sectors offered diverse perspectives on the status of these technologies with respect to defense and security applications as well as strategies for progress towards increased commercial development and viability.

Presenters made clear that, due to pressing needs, like infrared countermeasures and detection of terrorist threats, the defense and security sectors hold significant opportunities for the development of mid-IR technologies capable of addressing these needs. Transition to commercial markets, however, faces a number of challenges, including complexity of collaborative networks, a desire to keep cutting-edge defense technologies proprietary for a competitive advantage over potential adversaries, and an investment climate dampened by a sluggish economy. Responses to these challenges
  James Grove (Department of Homeland Security) presents his perspective on commercialization of mid-IR technologies for defense and security applications.
Panel discussion with insights from MIRTHE Industry Members
included, from the perspective of agencies and investors, making a commitment to collaborative development and funding involving both public and private sectors, using formal programs and partnerships as appropriate. In this way gaps in technology transfer funding might be addressed. Agencies developing disclosure-sensitive technologies benefit from market availability through, for example, decreased production costs, and so work to strike a balance between private internal development and transfer for commercialization. Companies and other developers were advised to explore thoroughly both public and private funding options. For those pursuing the venture capital route, a promising technology is typically insufficient; a convincing business plan, describing a worthwhile return for
MIRTHE Executive Director Joe Montemarano (far right) moderates a panel discussion with insights from (l-r) Mark Phillips (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), James Grove (Department of Homeland Security), Ralph Taylor-Smith (Battelle Ventures), and Jerry Meyer (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory).
investors, is critical to securing this type of funding.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion and then a showcase of select technologies, during which three MIRTHE-affiliated small companies demonstrated, through their products, how mid-IR technologies have been transitioning from R&D to market readiness.

This workshop continues MIRTHE's recent efforts to speed commercialization of mid-IR technologies. In 2010, MIRTHE established its Investment Focus Group (IFG) for this purpose, which brings together researchers, practitioners, industry, public funding agencies, and the investment community to disseminate information and discuss opportunities, often with particular applications in mind. In
MIRTHE affiliated small companies showcase their products
October 2011, MIRTHE hosted an IFG workshop on medical applications of mid-IR technologies. The DSS workshop addressed another key area in which mid-IR technologies have great and transformative potential. Notable defense and security projects actively being pursued by MIRTHE and its collaborators include standoff hazard detection as well as chemical monitoring.

Due to the success of the event, MIRTHE has once again been invited to present a workshop during next year's SPIE DSS conference, which is planned for April 29-May 3, 2013 in Baltimore.
  MIRTHE-affiliated small companies showcase their products, demonstrating the transition of mid-IR technologies from R&D to commercialization. Exhibitors include Jason Kriesel of Opto-Knowledge Systems (far right), Stephen So of Sentinel Photonics (second from left), and Ned Forbes of Feather Sensors (far left).