One candidate for considerably improved computing performance is SILICON PHOTONICS
To the question of what has DARPA or other government agencies done for us lately, the news from the Obama administration on this front seems encouraging. To wit, the formulation of AIM Photonics last year. Michael Liehr, at SUNY, is the CEO/Director. I don't know him. The Deputy director is John Bowers, an incredibly capable researcher based at UCSB (Univ of Calif at Santa Barbara). He is assisted by Rod Alferness, also from UCSB.I;ve worked with them in the past, and have the highest regard for them.
The task though is a tough one. It is housed at SUNY Albany, with strong goals and capable leaders. But recall SEMATECH, and its abortive start in the mid-1980s, even though DARPA and Craig Fields did monumental work to aid U.S. firms in their fight vis-a-vis Asian chip manufacturers.
SEMATECH eventually morphed, and moved to SUNY Albany, creating the NanoTech Complex, a key reason that the Si Photonics labs are being located there as well.
Also recall MCC in Austin, again with much fanfare (Dields eventually ran it) to 'save American leadership in software'
Let's hope the lessons of those approaches are embodied in the AIM Photonics effort.
Below is the first slide of a quasi-public document describing the new facility
There are two levels of support beyond the government sponsorship-- Industry with three tiers of supporting level, and academia with an analogous three tiers. Below are the logos of the first tier of industry--clearly some big names (recall, for example, that Intel stood aside from SEMATECH until Bob Noyce was willing to head it up). Keysight (our old instrument friends from HP) are in Tier 3. Cisco, Juniper and Texas Inst have all said "we'll play" but haven't ante'd as yet, so are in no Tier.
Herewith the lead schools (note, Caltech and Stanford are in Tier 3, Berkeley and UC San Diego in Tier 2).
I'd be interested in any thoughts you have on this topic