Partnerships Key to Photonics Innovation, EC VP Tells Photonics21

Good ideas are not enough – the solution lies in innovation, said European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes in a keynote talk on Friday 28 March at the Photonics21 annual meeting – and photonics is not only an innovative technology, but enables innovation all across the economy. Co-sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, the Photonics21 annual meeting brought together leaders from industry, research organisations, and other stakeholders from throughout the region.

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Photonics21 president and JENOPTIK CEO Michael Mertin (L)  presents a symbolic gift of laser-engraved eggs and apples to former  EC Photonics Unit head Thomas Skordas

Photonics21 president and JENOPTIK CEO Michael Mertin (L) presents a symbolic gift of laser-engraved eggs and apples to former EC Photonics Unit head Thomas Skordas

Brussels, Belgium and Bellingham, Washington, USA (PRWEB) March 28, 2014

European Commission (EC) Vice President Neelie Kroes addressed the Photonics21 annual meeting on 28 March, saying that over her four years in office, “I have come to know the world of European photonics very well.”

Kroes emphasized the important role of photonics -- not just its basic technologies, but its power to enable other technologies as well. She said that public-private partnerships are an important tool for advancing the field most effectively. Using efficient lighting as an example, she reviewed the dynamics of such an arrangement.

“On the one hand we have significant research that can lead to greener, better products. On the other, the EU sets clear policies and targets on energy efficiency. And we have new innovations that could connect entire grids to the internet. By joining up, we can ensure that these developments all take account of each other,” she said. Kroes congratulated the photonics community on its progress in creating such partnerships.

She cited the “innovation triangle” of citizens, scientists, and policymakers making possible “research that doesn’t stay locked in a lab, but that leads to innovation in the market and an impact on lives.” With a global market estimated at €350 billion – almost 20 percent of that in Europe, Kroes said there is “a powerful opportunity to make a difference” with targeted action to stimulate the industry’s growth.

“Now we need to make it happen,” she said.

She encouraged the photonics sector to work with other sectors such as healthcare and telecommunications to create innovations that make a difference. While acknowledging the risk of innovation, she said “public support can help you share those risks.”

Co-sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, the Photonics21 annual meeting brought together leaders from industry, research organisations, and other stakeholders from throughout the region.

Kroes mentioned the ACTPHAST initiative as a great example of how to innovate in this sector – an incubator favoring smaller companies, driven by business needs, providing access to the expertise and facilities of Europe's leading photonics research centres.

Other speakers during the meeting included SPIE Fellow aHugo Thienpont (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), ACTPHAST coordinator, explaining the programme’s opportunities for SMEs. Wolfgang Boch, new head of the EC Photonics Unit DG CONNECT, gave a talk entitled “Launching Photonics in Horizon2020” (Boch will give a Hot Topics talk on Horizon 2020 at SPIE Photonics Europe, 14-17 April in Brussels). A panel discussion took on the topic of how photonics can contribute to the re-industrialisation of Europe.

Joe Niemela (ICTP) gave a talk introducing the International Year of Light (IYL), endorsed by the United Nations to be celebrated in 2015. In her speech to attendees, Kroes called IYL “a testament to your hard work.” Also, young researchers received prizes for their work: Philip Moser of the Technical University of Berlin for his work on energy-efficient VCSELs for optical interconnects, and Olga Malinkiewicz of the University of Valencia for her work on perovskite solar cells employing organic charge-transport layers.

Thomas Skordas, head of the EC Photonics Unit from 2009 until earlier this year, accepted a plaque from SPIE. The award was presented by SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs, and expressed “gratitude for advancing the impact of photonics globally for the betterment of humankind.” Skordas also received a symbolic gift of laser-engraved eggs and apples from Photonics21 president and JENOPTIK CEO Michael Mertin.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 256,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2013.

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