MIT and Worcester's Quinsigamond Community College are teaming up on a federal project to expand the use of photonics - the application of manipulated light - in local manufacturing.

New York's SUNY Polytechnic Institute is set to lead the new national photonics program, but Massachusetts is partnering with it to take advantage of some of the commonwealth's higher education strengths. MIT will lead the application of photonics tech in cutting edge sectors like robotics and health care, while Quinsigamond will take lead on practical training to get middle-skill workers into photonics jobs.

Krystyn Van Vliet, a professors of material science and engineering as well as biological engineering, is MIT's  faculty lead for the project known at the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0.

"Massachusetts is a key partner in part because of the technical expertise of the faculty and researchers here at MIT and in part because for AIM photonics MIT is coordinating the education and workforce development program for the entire nation in this area," Van Vliet said.

The $600 million federal public-private partnership will establish the nation's first Integrated Photonics Institute in Manufacturing Innovation. The funds comes from the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation competition run by the federal government. Vice President Joe Biden announced the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM) program July 27 in New York. AIM is the sixth of nine new institutes dedicated to different kinds of manufacturing.

"We are harnessing education and innovation to build a platform for economic growth across Massachusetts. I look forward to seeing the continued great work from our Commonwealth’s innovation and education communities, and participating in this national center with our neighbors in New York," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press release on the program.

Advanced manufacturing is big deal for Massachusetts, the middle class and the economy of the entire nation. Long gone are the days of mass industrial manufacturing in the Bay State's textile and mill cities, but with new technologies have come opportunities to build 21st Century products. Biotech, wearable technologies, robotics and other tech sectors - many of which owe their existence to Massachusetts's research prowess - are bringing more and more products to market. Massachusetts hopes to be there to foster those growing industries with  a skilled workforce ready to make the research a reality.

Van Vliet described a number of jobs middle-skill workers could expect to see in the sector if full scale manufacturing operations grow out of the government and private investment. Everything from skilled design workers to manufacturing equipment technicians could see opportunities in the future, according to Van Vliet.

"Those companies could be those designing or making or using or packaging or testing all of the integrated photronics that will be used  in products in the coming years," Van Vliet said.

Baker's administration hopes the photonics institute will be the first of many federally-backed programs that will help bolster the state's advanced manufacturing sector.

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash believes programs like the photonics institute are a way to translate applied research in high tech and the sciences to the state's industrial base.

“We will continue to compete for these federal awards, because a vibrant advanced manufacturing sector is a key component to our state’s continued economic vitality," Ash said in the same statement.

Van Vliet said the team working to organize AIM is assembled and working through the rest of the year on strategies and training criteria. she expects them to start actively producing new means and opportunities for advances manufacturing in January of 2016.