The aim of a new phase of Laserlab-Europe, an association of key European laser research institutions, is to address the need for new laser infrastructure and to increase human resources for laser development. The consortium entered into its third phase March 15 in Bratislava with representatives of the Slovak government, the European Commission and the Slovak Academy of Sciences present for the launch ceremony. In its new phase, from 2012 to 2015, Laserlab-Europe will comprise 28 of the largest laser infrastructures in 19 European countries. The General Assembly gathered at the Bratislava meeting. Courtesy of Laserlab-Europe. "The general goals of Laserlab-Europe III comply with those of the Integrated Infrastructure Initiative (I3) of the Seventh Framework Programme," professor Wolfgang Sandner of Max Born Institute and coordinator of the Laserlab-Europe project told EuroPhotonics. "They include overcoming the fragmentation of national research infrastructures in Europe, coping with increasing costs and complexity, and improving the efficiency of and access to research services." The consortium will focus on a range of cutting-edge laser tools in four application areas that are considered important for securing Europe's role as a leader in these areas. Participating infrastructures include BIOPTICHAL and EUROLITE. "The particular objectives of Laserlab-Europe III arise from the peculiarities of the European landscape of laser research infrastructures, their history and recent developments," Sandner said. To address these peculiarities, the consortium aims to assist European member states to create new infrastructures where they are lacking, he said. Particular emphasis has been placed on ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) projects ELI and HiPER. ELI, the Extreme Light Infrastructure, will be the world's most powerful scientific laser. It is a close collaborator of Laserlab-Europe and is currently being established in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. Another civilian European megaproject, HiPER, will investigate the possibility of creating energy from fusion (see story on page 16). Laserlab-Europe represents 19 European countries. Laserlab-Europe also plans to increase the European basis of human resources in laser development and laser-based research. It hopes to achieve this by establishing a network of national contact points, user training, new approaches on staff mobility and training, transitional access, and coordination of education activities with other European Union projects and industry, Sandner said. It also hopes to maintain the research basis for future areas in laser science and applications. "This is done through four cutting-edge joint research activities," Sandner said. "In addition, Laserlab-Europe III follows a road map to form a sustainable European Research Infrastructure Consortium." During the initial phase, from 2003 to 2007, ambitious structuring elements were established for a unified distributed laser research infrastructure. In the second phase, from 2009 to 2012, the consortium grew from 17 to 27 laser labs from 16 countries. To launch the third phase, Bratislava was chosen because of its geographical ties to the ELI host countries. "The network has a tradition in choosing locations for outstanding events (in particular, kickoff meetings), where laser research and applications are in the process of gaining increasing attention from the scientific community and from politics," he said. "It is expected that this tradition will continue in future phases." Upon completion of the third phase in 2015, a new European photonics-based funding program called Horizon2020 will be in place. "Assuming that the instrument of I3 will still exist, Laserlab-Europe will certainly consider applying for an extension of its activities," Sandner said. "Alternatively, Laserlab-Europe may choose to become an independent legal entity under the model contract of ERIC. This option is presently being investigated. If so, it may apply for different funding instruments within Horizon2020."