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SPIE to launch European show

15 Jan 2003

Strasbourg will play host to SPIE's first Photonics Europe conference and exhibition in April 2004.

The International Society for Optical Engineering, SPIE, has unveiled plans for a major European optics conference and exhibition in 2004. Called Photonics Europe, the event is due to take place in Strasbourg, France on 26-30 April. If all goes well it will run every two years.

Although SPIE has a reputation for organizing large events in the US, such as Photonics West which takes place every January in California, it has yet to organize anything on that scale in Europe. This year's Photonics West expects to attract around 650 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors.

SPIE's Scott Walker, the project manager for Photonics Europe, says that several factors led to its creation. "The primary reason is that SPIE has a lot of members, almost 4000, in Europe," he commented. "We want this to be a large pan-European event."

SPIE has already approached several European bodies involved in optics to help organize the event. The European Optical Society along with two French optics bodies (Societe Francaise d'Optique, the Groupement des Industries Francaises d'Optique) and an Italian optics society (Italiana di Ottica e Fotonica) have already agreed to lend their support.

Although, a detailed programme for the event has not yet been finalized, SPIE says that it will consist of "an international congress with educational programmes, workshops, plenaries, internationally known speakers, and a product and services exhibition."

Hugo Thienpont, a professor of photonics at the Vrije Universitat Brussel in Belgium, has been appointed as one of the technical chairs of Photonics Europe. He says the conference will have three main technical tracks: microphotonics; photonics design, metrology and instrumentation; and photonics in multimedia technologies. It will also feature a series of educational tutorials that will be free to attend.

"We do not want to clash with established events such as ECOC [European Conference on Optical Communication] or Laser Munich, said Thienpont. You will not see anything on optical communication or big lasers at Photonics Europe."

Thienpont says that in 2004, all of SPIE's European topical meetings will be rolled into Photonics Europe, instead of taking place throughout the year as individual events. He is keen to avoid having too many parallel sessions that could potentially conflict with each other, which has been a criticism of Photonics West.

The big question is can SPIE make it a commercial success by attracting a significant number of exhibitors? A sluggish market for photonics combined with heavyweight German competition from the Frankfurt OPTATEC show suggests that it might be a tough task. Choosing to run Photonics Europe in the gap year of the biennial Laser Munich show should certainly help.

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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