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Florida wins $10 m for photonics

26 Mar 2003

A USD 10 million grant will help establish a photonics center of excellence at the University of Central Florida.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) has won USD 10 million of state funding to establish a photonics center at its Orlando campus. The Florida Photonics Center of Excellence (FPCE) will focus its research activities on nanophotonics, biophotonics, ultra broadband wavelength division multiplexing, advanced imaging and 3D displays.

"The FPCE will be a research center within the School of Optics / Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) at ," Eric Van Stryland, director of CREOL, told Optics.org. "It will build on what UCF has already accomplished through the School of Optics and CREOL."

Last year, CREOL generated more than USD 10 million in external funding and had 125 graduate students working towards PhDs. It has also spun-off many successful companies including Crystal Photonics, a maker of crystals for biophotonics, and Optical Diagnostics, which makes speciality glass for volume holography.

According to the Florida High Tech Corridor, there are 148 photonics firms in the state. Stryland says that this funding and the work of CREOL is crucial to attracting and retaining high-tech companies.

Stryland says the new center will continue to promote spin-offs. "One of the reasons for the funding is for economic development," he told Optics.org. "This is something the School of Optics and CREOL have been working on, but in slightly different technology areas [to what the new photonics center will concentrate on]."

The state board of education will release the funding in two annual USD 5 million installments. "I expect the funding from the state within a couple of months," said Stryland.

To make the funding last beyond two years, the center will use a CREOL tried-and-tested method. This involves hiring scholars who then go on to secure and attract further funding. "We plan to endow 5 chairs and we're already looking for members of staff," said Stryland.

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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