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Partnerships key to photonics innovation, EC VP tells Photonics21

'Now we need to make it happen', European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes says

28 March 2014

Michael Mertin, Thomas Skordas

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


Ralph Light on the laser harp
Ralph Light entertains Photonics21
participants with a piece by Mozart
played on a laser harp.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, and BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- 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.

Kroes said that her biggest worry is the "absolutely unacceptable" unemployment rate among young people across Europe, 60 percent or higher in some countries. She called for stimulation of photonics with educational programs as a way of addressing unemployment, saying "a lost generation is a danger for democracy."

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."

Eugene Arthurs, Thomas Skordas
SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs (at left) presents Thomas Skordas
with a plaque expressing the
society's appreciation for
Skordas' contributions to
the field of photonics.

The Photonics21 annual meeting brought together leaders from industry, research organisations, and other stakeholders from throughout the region. Event sponsors included SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, Aixtron, Fraunhofer ILT, Hamamatsu, Osram, Philips, University ITMO, the EC, Jenoptik, Thales, Thorlabs, and Trumpf.

In her talk, Kroes singled out the ACTPHAST initiative as an excellent 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 Hugo 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 present 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. Panel members were Reinhilde Veugelers, Senior Fellow Bruegel and Professor KU Leuven; Michael Mertin, Photonics21 President, and Jenoptik CEO; Gareth Jones, Gooch & Housego CEO; Khalil Rouhana, EC Director DG Connect; and Pedro Ortun, EC Director DG Enterprise and Industry.

Joe Niemela (ICTP) gave a talk introducing the International Year of Light (IYL) endorsed by the United Nations to be observed in 2015. In her speech to attendees, Kroes called IYL "a testament to your hard work."

Philip Moser and Neelie Kroes
EC VP Neelie Kroes (at right) presents
one of two awards for excellence to young
researcher Philip Moser. Olga Malinkiewicz
was also a recipient.

Young researchers received prizes recognizing their research excellence: 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. (Read more on Malinkiewicz's work in the SPIE Newsroom article.)

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.

Transcript of Kroes' speech.

More coverage on the Photonics21 annual meeting from optics.org.

Eugene Athurs, Wolfgang Boch, Hugo Thienpont; Photonics21 annual meeting
From left Eugene Arthurs, Wolfgang Boch, and Hugo Thienpont at the Photonics21 annual meeting

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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