laser performance

Sensing Opportunity

With new key partners signed, the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center continues to take shape in Osceola County.

Efforts to transform Central Florida into a global manufacturing leader for photonics received another boost in late April when two new corporate partners came on board.

Novati, an Austin, Texas-based silicon wafer and semiconductor company, and Sandia National Laboratories of Albuquerque, N.M., will join a team of private, public and educational partners now developing the $70 million, 100,000-square-foot Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (FAMRC) at a 20-acre site adjacent to Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee.


The team behind FAMRC is the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), the world’s first industry-led partnership for commercial development of smart sensors and photonics.

Fran Korosec, director of ICAMR’s program management office, believes the consortium can be a blueprint for similar partnerships.

florida advanced manufacturing research center
A slice of semiconductor material being studied.
A close-up of a wafer made by Novati.
A close-up of a wafer made by Novati.

“I’m confident that the success of this consortium will be a model for ongoing statewide and regional cooperation,” Korosec says.

FAMRC will build and research advanced sensors and high-tech photonics for next-generation computers, appliances, smartphones and communication devices — a market that’s expected to grow to $154.4 billion by 2020, per estimates from BBC Research.

“Though this manufacturing facility is being built in Osceola County, these are not just Central Florida-planned initiatives,” Korosec cites.

Instead, it’s a leapfrog economic strategy that impacts the entire state.


The project has already succeeded in securing a formidable amount of seed capital from across Florida. Locally, Osceola County committed $61 million, with additional support from the Kissimmee Utility Authority and Toho Water Authority. County officials have lobbied the state for another $25 million annually; the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development has already recommended $5 million.

Studying jet flames with laser diagnostics.
Studying jet flames with laser diagnostics.

Universities are also pitching in. “Everyone recognizes that this project will benefit all of the universities in the state system,” says Korosec.

The University of Central Florida in Orlando pledged $10 million in startup money and $7 million for faculty. Three other schools are contributing $250,000 annually: the University of South Florida in Tampa, the University of Florida in Gainesville and Florida International University in Miami.

Economic development entities are involved, too. Enterprise Florida has approved $1.9 million from the state’s quick action closing fund. The Corridor (formerly the Florida High Tech Corridor Council) will contribute up to $6.5 million and expand its signature Matching Grants Research Program for even more funding opportunities. Also contributing is the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.


More money may soon be on the way. A $110 million grant proposal for a Department of Defense initiative to build an Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI) was submitted by ICAMR and UCF in March (see FORWARD Florida “Digging into Photonics Manufacturing,” October/November 2014). That amount would be matched by investment from institutions and industry.

Altogether, the funding represents around $500 million in total scope of work, based on the cost-sharing matching requirements, according to Korosec.

To compete for the grant, ICAMR and UCF brought together industry partners and three other schools — Clemson University and the universities of Alabama (Huntsville) and Illinois. Groups from California (University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute) and New York (Research Foundation of SUNY and University of Rochester) are also vying for the grant.

As part of the selection process, the Department of Defense visited UCF in late April. “We expect to hear who’s selected during the June or July time frame. This grant could take the marketplace for photonics beyond what’s already been made possible by CREOL [College of Optics and Photonics at UCF],” Korosec says.


As a development organization, ICAMR is focusing on manufacturing methods and processes that make it effective for industries to use advanced photonic sensors. “Companies already using sensors are the first targets for this technology,” notes Koresec. “Their current sensors are perhaps larger or less accurate than they prefer, so we can help them address those challenges.”

A laser shoots skyward as part of Sandia’s Laser Applications project.
A laser shoots skyward as part of Sandia’s Laser Applications project.

Additional partners could come from aerospace, defense, consumer product, energy, environmental and health-care companies. “Each has material and chemical challenges specific to their application,” Korosec adds. “Some are already looking at ways to modify their expensive semiconductor manufacturing tools to accommodate high-volume advanced photonics manufacturing.”

While FAMRC will provide a location for research and development, ICAMR will also try to attract supply chain companies to the surrounding 220-acre research park.

“I can’t accurately predict the total number of companies that will eventually choose to locate here. But it could very easily rival the growth that happened in Austin and Albany, N.Y. with SEMATECH and advanced chip manufacturing,” says Korosec.

That’s significant. Austin alone is now home to 260 semiconductor companies. The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission predicts that in 10 years ICAMR and FAMRC could generate up to 80,000 high-wage advanced sensor and photonics-related jobs with earnings exceeding $1 billion.

Small sensors. Big impacts.