Montana, Lasers, and Lithuania. Not three words you usually expect to see together. But say it out loud and it’s kinda cool. The Montana Department of Commerce, along with the Montana Photonics Industry Alliance and the Lithuanian Laser Association partnered over the summer on a series of seminars to promote education about the laser, photonics, and optics industries. These seminars, the last held on November 7th, were to build contacts networks of business and academic relationships between Montana and Lithuania.

Photo Credit montanaphotonics.org
Photo Credit montanaphotonics.org
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OK, Laser and optics I understand, but Photonics? Photonics is the science and technology of generating, detecting, and controlling light. Photonics technology is key to many of the things we rely on every day including smartphones, DVD players, cameras, medical instruments, and lighting products. Photonics will power many of the most important innovations of the 21st century. According to the MPIA, it is also a national push to make the study of these technologies a priority.

So, What Can It do?

One seminar focused on using eye-safe laser beams to create a 3D representation of the surveyed environment, which is key for autonomous driving. Another was on quantum telecommunications and materials and advances in fundamentally new improvements to security, computing, and sensors. Laser cutting Combines? Not yet.

How does Lithuania fit in? According to the department of commerce, Montana has nearly six times the land area, but only one-third of the people of Lithuania. In 2020, Montana’s GDP was almost 80 percent of Lithuania’s, both have similar land use, And Montana and Lithuania share a robust laser, photonics, and optics industry.

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Dr. Gediminas Račiukaitis, President of the Lithuanian Laser Association in Vilnius, Lithuania said “Complementarity among activities of Montana and Lithuanian photonics companies could be an excellent starting point to strengthen scientific and commercial collaboration”

Photo Credit ltoptics.org
Photo Credit ltoptics.org
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Who knew? U.S. Commerce Department did.

Commerce’s Industry Development Program works to identify and facilitate investment in projects that capitalize on the competitive business advantages Montana offers. said Scott Osterman, Montana Department of Commerce Director, ...by adding value to the state’s natural resources, creating good paying jobs, and bolstering our tax base...we’re creating a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with Lithuania while promoting bilateral trade and investment in the laser, photonics, and optics industries.

It is a green tech industry with forward growth certainly, and that’s a good thing for keeping young and future Montanans in Big Sky Country. Maybe we will see Laser Combines sooner than we think.

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