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Industry strategy yields innovation gains

28 May 2010

The photonics industry in Europe is reporting gains in innovation and competitiveness through a strategy of future-scoping and collaboration among industry, research institutes and universities.

Earlier this spring SPIE representatives visited several industry locations in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The visits, held following SPIE Photonics Europe 2010 in Brussels in April, expanded on reports presented at the meeting on collaborative projects supported by the European Commission and Photonics21.

"Meetings with our industry partners are incredibly valuable to SPIE in helping us to ensure the relevance of our events, publications and support for workforce development through student and outreach programmes," said Andrew Brown, SPIE's senior director of global business development.

Peter Hartmann and Marita Paasch of SCHOTT Advanced Materials (Mainz) told SPIE president Ralph James and SPIE industry relations manager Peter Hallett that 30% of company revenue comes from products introduced in the last five years. SCHOTT is a major supplier of optical materials, some of which are used in high-energy applications such as debris shields in the National Ignition Facility fusion project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Gerhard Schötz and Wolfgang Stang of Heraeus Quarzglas (Hanau) noted that their 100-year-old optics division has become the world's largest producer of high-purity quartz and synthetic fused silica, used in applications such as telecoms and microlithography. Heraeus quartz crucibles are used in manufacturing products ranging from solar cells to semiconductor chips.

At Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik (ILT, Aachen), SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs and Brown toured a facility where more than 250 institute employees and 100 researchers and staff from the University of Aachen work together. The arrangement creates an important bridge between university and industry, Arthurs noted. In fact, he said, "It can be hard for a visitor to work out where the university stops and the Fraunhofer starts."

The ILT also has partnerships in the US, with the Fraunhofer USA Center for Laser Technology in Michigan, and the University of Central Florida College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL).

ILT director Reinhart Poprawe gave evidence of the facility's innovative prowess in his 5 May announcement at AKL that the ILT team had broken a world record with a femtosecond laser prototype demonstration of average power of 1.1 kW at 600 fs laser with 90 MW peak.

At Philips Lighting (Eindhoven) Peter Visser and Bruno Smets discussed the coming boom in LED lighting, and innovations such as user interfaces associated with controlling the light in one's environment

Among facilities focusing on scoping the future are:

  • IMEC (Leuven) Europe's largest independent research centre in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology, where more than 550 industrial residents and guest researchers work toward advances in healthcare, smart electronics, sustainable energy and safer transportation.
  • TNO (Delft), where foresight researchers consider technical trends, economics, politics and society, and efforts to measure the added-value of photonics technologies on industrial competitiveness, socioeconomic improvement and environmental conditions, in a major study assigned by the EC.

HÜBNER PhotonicsJenLab GmbHLaCroix Precision OpticsAlluxaCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Omicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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