Stephanie A. Weiss
MUNICH, Germany -- Photonics has become a more developed industry, and its prospects for additional growth are excellent, said visitors to the Laser 97 trade show and conferences.
The June trade fair attracted 14,500 visitors from 67 countries, a 4.3 percent increase in attendance over the 1995 show, according to organizers. Visitors from outside Germany accounted for 26 percent of the total.
The exhibitors' ranks also grew 9 percent to 725 exhibitors and 106 other represented companies. The number of non-German exhibitors rose by 31 percent, a significant growing that reflects the growing international flavor of the show. In fact, 83 percent of visitors who completed an informal show survey cited the international spread among exhibitors as an important factor in their decision to attend.
The survey also found that visitors are optimistic about photonics' progress: 77 percent assessed the industry's development as good to excellent.
The official opening ceremonies issued warnings, however, to the European financial community, which several speakers berated for a shortsighted lack of interest in high technology. Jurgen Weber, chairman of the Laser 97 exhibitor board and managing director of Polytec GmbH, said that while the German photonics industry is growing at a rate of 20 to 30 percent, "German companies are not owned by Germany anymore. German investors just aren't interested anymore."
He and other speakers at the kick-off ceremony urged Europe's political leaders to encourage high-tech investment as a key to future economic success. Otto Wiesheu, Bavarian state minister of economics, transportation and technology, said that without high-tech industry, the country will suffer. "The only way to solve the problem of new jobs is to invest in new products and new technologies," he said. "We cannot focus on the things that we can do today; we must look forward to what will be needed in 10 years. The location that does not participate in R&D now will not be involved in participating when the markets are split up."