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European Commission to Establish Photonics Unit

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BRUSSELS, Dec. 5, 2006 -- The European Commission (EC) plans to create a unit dedicated to photonics and to increase funding for photonics by more than 40 percent (90 million euros) in 2007-2008, it was announced at the first annual meeting of the Photonics21 European Technology Platform, being held this week in Brussels.

Thierry van der Pyl, head of the High Performance Computing R&D unit in the EC Belgium Program on Information Technologies (Esprit), will head the new photonics unit starting in January.

"I would like to see that private public partnership works in research," van der Pyl said at Photonics21. "We will take on the challenge that is not only a matter between the EU and the research stakeholders, but also concerns the member states. A comprehensive strategy in Europe is the key."

Rosalie Zobel, director of the Directorate General (DG) Information Society of the European Commission, called on Photonics21 to continue to develop the strategic research agenda. She stressed the importance of photonics as a business area and invited Photonics21 to support EU and the community to maintain competitiveness with the US and Asia. Zobel said Photonics21 needs to "identify and build means needed to develop the photonics area and to develop synergies with national programs and private investment."

"Since was launched in December 2005, Photonics21 has been able to establish a firm foundation for the further development of photonics in Europe," Zobel said, and "the topic has been taken up by eight other units within the Directorate-General for Research and incorporated in areas such as life sciences and manufacturing technology." (See also "Photonics Platform Launched in Europe,"

As one of the first actions by the platform, which is supported by European optical technology companies, members called for a doubling of EU research expenditures on photonics and a pan-European strategy instead of a fragmented national approach. In view of investments by markets in the US and Asia, Photonics21 warned that a fragmented approach by the European research community would inevitably weaken Europe's ability to compete while announcing they will increase their own research spending by 330 million euros per year.

Alexander von Witzleben, chairman of the board of German company Jenoptik AG and president of Photonics21, said, "The boost being given to the area by the EU represents a large step forward, in view of the ongoing process of structural change, and will allow photonics-related topics to become firmly anchored in the 7th Framework Program. The first essential foundations have been laid, namely a photonics community at European level and the appropriate funding resources."

von Witzleben said the next step is to make use of this foundation to achieve objectives in a reasonable timeframe.

"The role of photonics in some member states still has considerable potential," he said. "Therefore, in 2007 it will be crucial to the community to set up a mirror group composed of representatives from each country with responsibility for photonics."

While over 200,000 jobs throughout Europe are directly anchored in photonics -- two thirds of them small and medium enterprises -- two million jobs in the manufacturing industry, or 16 percent of the entire working population, are dependent on these technologies, according to Photonics21.

"The productivity and competitiveness of these sectors depends to a large extent on the research findings and practical application of photonics," the group said in a statement.

Photonics21 acts as an interface between the EU and industry by directing research toward practical applications. The platform has over 500 members from 21 EU member states and six other countries. Its executive board is comprised of representatives of companies such as Trumpf Laser and Electronics Div., Bookham Technology plc, Sagem Défense Sécurité, Philips Lighting BV and Carl Zeiss AG.

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Dec 2006
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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