Fiber Optics Grows in Research Triangle
Robert C. Pini
RESEARCH TRIANGLE, N.C. -- Boosted by this area's high-tech work force, photonics companies have created a cluster of fast-growing businesses. In the latest expansion, Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, N.J., announced its intention to add a new address to the growing neighborhood. The company plans to build an optical networking research and development facility for its Wavestar products, adding 500 employees to its current local work force of 2200.
Lucent is part of a deep lineup of fiber optics and telecommunications heavyweights involved in research, manufacturing and services in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Dubbed "Photon Valley" by Gerry Butters, president of Lucent's optical networking group, the high-tech cluster boasts a concentration of companies that span the spectrum, from the manufacture and distribution of optical fiber (Anixter Corp., Berk-Tek, Litespec Optical Fiber LLC) to the production of test equipment for installed networks (Wandel & Goltermann Inc.).
Lucent's new facility on North Carolina State University's Centennial campus will be a neighbor to, among others, Alcatel Network Systems, Cisco Systems, Ericsson Inc., Fujitsu Network Switching Inc., Nortel Networks, Sumitomo Electric Fiber Optics Corp. and Tekelec-Network Switching.
Photonics companies not directly involved in telecommunications also dot the valley landscape, including Cree Research Inc., makers of light-emitting diodes; McMahan Research Laboratories Inc., making spectroradiometers; Inovision Corp., an imaging system developer; and Measurements Group Inc., which makes equipment for stress and strain measurement.
Besides rubbing elbows with regionally l ocated service providers like MCI Worldcom, Sprint and BellSouth, Lucent expects to get something else out of the college campus location: talent. In fact, Lucent will form an affiliation with the school similar to those that Nortel and Cisco have, said Bob Geolas, a partnership development specialist with the university.
Lucent engineers may serve as adjunct professors, and the company will have access to regular faculty for research and product development. "We're helping them get their technology to market," Geolas said.
In return, students and faculty will benefit from working on projects and jointly developing network products, said Frank Briamonte, a spokes-man for Lucent.
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