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Commitment to Photonics Public-Private Partnership Renewed
May 2013
BRUSSELS, May 2, 2013 — At the Photonics21 annual meeting this week, photonics industry representatives in Europe renewed their commitment to a public-private partnership under Horizon 2020.

At the meeting, Photonics21 President Dr. Michael Mertin, CEO of Jenoptik, and the Photonics21 executive board presented European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes with "Towards 2020 — Photonics Driving Economic Growth in Europe." The strategic road map outlines the photonics research and innovation priorities for 2014-2020, according to Photonics21 and the European photonics community, and how they should be addressed in the upcoming Horizon 2020 program.

Horizon 2020 is the European Union's new program for research and innovation and is aimed at creating jobs and securing Europe's global competitiveness. It will run from 2014 to 2020 with an €80 billion (about $105 billion) budget. The amount of funding the photonics sector will receive has yet to be determined.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes talks of the importance of photonics to the European economy during her keynote speech at the Photonics21 annual meeting in Brussels this week.

"The legislators are still discussing Horizon 2020. And it's clear that the overall result will be lower than the commission proposal," Kroes said in her keynote speech. "But I am confident that the photonics budget in Horizon 2020 will still see a significant increase on the current program, FP7."

The photonics industry in Europe is estimated to be worth nearly €60 billion, employing 300,000 people and acting as a key enabling technology (KET) for 20 to 30 percent of the European economy.

Kroes stressed the importance of photonics to the European economy: "From lighting to laser manufacturing, from communications to cancer detection, photonics matters to our society, our economy and our people," Kroes said. "It's not just a key enabling technology; it's one where Europe's industry is strong. And I intend to keep it that way."

Europe is slowly recovering from an economic crisis, and austerity measures still dominate the daily political routine in its member states. Photonics21 members assert, however, that smart investment should be at the heart of any recovery strategy and that it should be in areas where Europe is strong and potential for growth is huge. Photonics is one of those sectors that, despite the crisis, has continued to grow and create jobs, they said.

Kroes said that there has been "very good progress" made since she first proposed a public-private partnership in photonics a couple of years ago, with more than 60 photonics companies and research institutes fully committed.

"Europe has a great high-tech story to tell, and photonics is at the center of that story," she said. "Photonics makes ultrahigh-speed fiber broadband possible; it is the key to the 3-D printing revolution. And, most importantly at this time, it is the raison d'être of 5000 of Europe's most innovative SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises]. I want to make sure those companies have the R&D support they need to lead the €300 billion global photonics market, improve lives, and support new and existing jobs."

"Boosting economic growth and the creation of jobs in Europe through strengthening its innovation capacity will be the major challenges of Horizon 2020," Mertin said at a roundtable session. "Through the establishment of a public-private partnership [PPP], the photonics community fully commits to strive for photonics innovation in Europe and to reinforce the cooperation between public and private sectors. Our innovation capacity will substantially contribute to Europe's economy and thus benefit European citizens."

Also expressing support for the PPP was Khalil Rouhana, director for components and systems at the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. "Such a partnership would represent an important joint investment between the European Union, industry and academia until 2020. This is the kind of mobilization of people and resources that Europe needs in order to secure leadership in global photonics and to create economic growth and new jobs in Europe," he said.

The PPP is expected to be formally submitted to the commission in the next few weeks.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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