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SPIE urges industry feedback on emerging technology controls

20 Nov 2018

Quantum, additive manufacturing, navigation, and advanced surveillance among the new fields identified by US government; Photonics West industry session set to discuss the topic.

The US government has officially begun accepting feedback relating to future export controls on several emerging technologies, with the photonics industry urged to get involved in shaping new regulations.

According to optics.org publisher SPIE, which will host discussions on the topic at the forthcoming Photonics West event in San Francisco, the request stems from concerns that certain emerging technologies have not yet been evaluated for their national security risk, and so are not currently controlled through regulation.

Writing on the optics and photonics society’s web site, SPIE’s government affairs director Jennifer Douris O'Bryan stated: “Many of these emerging technologies are critical to the optics and photonics community and any changes to their classification for export control could have a broad impact, so it is vital that the industry help shape these decisions.”

O’Bryan points out that the “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM)”, released in the Federal Register for public inspection on November 16, lists some 14 technology areas that the US government wants to evaluate. The list includes several topics underpinned by optics and photonics - including quantum sensing, additive manufacturing, and surveillance technologies.

Requesting comments on “criteria for defining and identifying emerging technologies”, the ANPRM also seeks assistance in identifying specific emerging technologies that are regarded as essential to national security within these areas. With comments being accepted through December 19, the technology list includes:

• Biotechnology
• Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology
• Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) technology
• Microprocessor technology
• Advanced computing technology
• Data analytics technology
• Quantum information and sensing technology
• Logistics technology
• Additive manufacturing (e.g. 3D printing)
• Robotics
• Brain-computer interfaces
• Hypersonics
• Advanced materials
• Advanced surveillance technologies

In addition to seeking criteria to apply in controlling these technologies, the US Department of Commerce is also seeking information about the current status of development - both in the US and internationally - as well as the likely impact that export controls would have on US technological leadership.

SPIE CEO Kent Rochford pointed out: “In optics and photonics, we often work with and enable new and emerging technologies. This is part of what makes our industry so exciting, and is important that we, as a community, work with policymakers to ensure a thorough understanding of our fields and their various impacts on our economies and national security.

“I encourage all members of the US-based optics and photonics community to weigh in on this important issue with feedback, comments, and suggestions, so that we can ensure that these decisions are made with the most accurate and complete information possible.”

Global effect
O’Bryan adds that provisions in the new law require any new controls adopted by the US as part of the review and control process to be brought to the Wassenaar Arrangement, the international body that sets control standards for 42 other countries. “Therefore, this US-based process has the potential to have a global effect on export controls for emerging technologies,” she reports.

The 30-day comment period for the ANPRM is scheduled to end December 19. “For the community of stakeholders working in the area of technologies listed, engagement will be necessary to ensure that the execution of the regulatory process does not hamper growth in many significant research fields,” writes O’Bryan.

SPIE says that it will continue to engage the administration on behalf of the optics and photonics community as the ANPRM and related proposed regulations move forward. To provide feedback directly, visit the Federal Register page here.

The various issues raised will also be discussed during a series of meetings scheduled to take place February 5-6 during the Photonics West conference. Further details about the industry sessions covering export control regulations are available here.

Foreign investment: new rules in pilot program
O’Bryan reports that the ANPRM is a direct result of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), which was passed by Congress in August.

Among the other implications of the FIRRMA legislation are changes to the rules governing foreign ownership of US companies working on what are considered to be “critical technologies”, and how such companies are required to report to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

Previously, CFIUS only covered business transactions where foreign parties acquired a controlling interest in companies, a notable example in photonics occurring when the committee halted the planned sale of Philips Lumileds to a Chinese-led private equity consortium.

Under a pilot program the new regulations, which came into effect November 10, lower that bar to include non-controlling interests, as defined in this Federal Register notice. This includes so-called “membership or observer rights” on a board of directors or equivalent, access to material technical information, and key decision-making. According to the register text, FIRRMA provides the US president and CFIUS with "expanded authority" to suspend or prohibit mergers or acquisitions deemed to be a national security risk.

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