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Mapping a Course Out of the “Valley of Death”

EuroPhotonics
Oct 2011
Photonics21 committed €5.6 billion (about $7.4 billion) in September to a proposed Photonics Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the European Commission (EC) aimed at boosting economic growth and jobs. Operational details are still to be worked out, but the industry commitment will be combined with €1.4 billion from the EC, for a total of €7 billion to fund alignment of industrial, scientific and public strategies within the photonics sector.

The EC identified photonics as one of six key enabling technologies (KETs) some time ago, garnering additional support and attention for its potential future impact on European industry.

Yet its impact is limited by the so-called “Valley of Death” in the innovation chain, according to Photonics21 Vice President Giorgio Anania, who also is a member of the KET High Level Group. “Photonic innovation in Europe tends to fall through in the stage between successful science and pilot-scale industrial deployments, the latter being the stage at which jobs are created.”

Photonics21 has outlined a broad range of real-world applications that could result from PPP expenditures, including development of an ultrahigh-speed communications network with multiterabit capacity; laser-based manufacturing processes; and real-time medical photonic diagnostics and laser-based therapeutic treatments. The industry has committed itself to turning Horizon 2020 projects (an initiative by Euro-Mediterranean governments to tackle the top sources of Mediterranean pollution by the year 2020) into products by further investing downstream in research, development and manufacturing in Europe.

Also in the works is a European Union-funded research project that aims to pave a new path for the optics industry in producing glass micro-optics. To answer a growing demand for ever-smaller optics, 10 partners from six countries have formed a research project called WaferLevelOptics to close gaps between various micro-optics production methods currently in use in the market. Martin Hünten, Daniel Hollstegge, Yang Wang, Reik Krappig, Olaf Dambon and Fritz Klocke, all of Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, explain the project in a feature called WaferLevelOptics Project Enables Ever-Smaller Micro-Optics, beginning on page 24.

“As with other production technologies, precision molding is distinguished by a complex process chain: A sequence of many different and simultaneously complex processes must be kept under control to be able to successfully employ precision molding,” the authors write. “For this reason, the focus of the WaferLevelOptics project is on the development of the individual process steps and their amalgamation into a complete process chain.”

A team from Photonics Media will attend the Vision 2011 conference and trade fair Nov. 8-10 in Stuttgart, Germany. Visit us at Hall 6 C-81. We look forward to greeting you there.


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