CHICOPEE – A local business that specializes in creating and supplying high-tech lasers will partner with Westfield New England University to establish a research and development center and strengthen the school’s education program with the help of a $2.5 million state grant.
The project that will join Convergent Photonics with the university is the fourth of its kind statewide and the first in Western Massachusetts. Springfield Technical Community College will also be involved in the program.
“It is such an amazing project. I’m so glad they picked Chicopee for it,” Mayor John L. Vieau said. “This will give them an advanced labor force with skilled workers.”
The award was announced in a small event at the company’s headquarters on 117 East Main St. Mike Kennealy, state director of Housing and Economic Development, Western New England President Robert Johnson, State Reps. Joseph Wagner and Jose Tosado, company leaders and others attended. The money comes from the state’s Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative.
The funding will allow the company and the university to purchase equipment so each can create a high-power semiconductor laser lab that will be used to support the development of innovative technologies and for the education of engineering students who want to go into the field of photonics. It will have a strong research component to it, officials said.
“Our investments in advanced manufacturing are targeting immediate projects, such as the response to COVID-19, but also longer-term projects like the new (Lab for Education and Application Prototyping) in Chicopee,” Kennealy said. “This partnership between a growing company like Convergent and a tech-oriented university like Western New England will create the opportunity to build on that foundation and will take ongoing collaboration and training in this sector and across this region to the next level.”
Convergent Photonics, which has been operating since the 1960s, supplies high-power lasers used for multiple uses including for cutting and welding in the machine tool industry worldwide. The new lab will help the company develop high-powered equipment for medical systems and fiber lasers used as optical power supplies in data centers that are the backbone for telecommunications, surgical, and industrial applications, officials said.
“We are very glad and proud to be part of the … initiative which will reinforce the historical presence of Convergent Photonics in Western Massachusetts and foster the development of a new generation of engineers in integrated photonics which is one of the most important key enabling technologies the 21st Century,” said Paolo Sanna, the president of Convergent Photonics.
The entire project is expected to cost about $4.1 million. The company also investing funds in the collaboration.
“One of the issues is it is difficult to find engineers (who specialize in laser technology) at the masters and bachelor’s level,” said Neeraj Magotra, chairman of the department of electrical and computer engineering for Western New England. “STCC puts out a lot of good laser technicians.”
Western New England University, Springfield Technical Community College and Convergent Photonics have previously worked together to assist