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Photonic -- and Tulip -- Clusters Bloom in Ottawa

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OTTAWA, May 13 -- The world's largest tulip festival lent ambiance to Opto-Canada last week, where "clusters of clusters" -- forged relationships among cities that are emphasizing photonics -- was a common theme.

Scott Walker, senior event project manager for The International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Opto-Canada's sponsor, said the two-day event was a "great success."

Over 1300 attended, 110 exhibitors participated, and 350 attended the business meeting Friday afternoon. Conferences from biophotonics to telecommunications to laser machining all played to packed rooms, Walker said.

"Local organizers in Ontario and Ottawa really took the opportunity to showcase photonics in Canada," he added.

Jozef Straus, co-chairman, president and CEO of JDS Uniphase, and Omur Sezerman, president and CEO of OZ Optics Ltd., both spoke to the current situation in the telecom industry during plenary sessions.

"No one was willing to predict when the current 'depression,' as they referred to it, rather than as 'recession' -- will be over," Walker said, "But they said what goes up must come down and what goes down must come up, and that the industry will come out of this. They said the key is positioning your company to survive the current situation."

However, the speakers said the very dynamics of the industry have changed, and that "building more capacity is no longer the key, but rather the current paradigm is to reduce costs, leverage the assets you have in the ground and improve manufacturing methods for photonics," Walker said.

"In biophotonics, as well as in laser machining and ultrafast lasers, the mood is very positive," he added.

But the concept of "clustering"-- partnerships among photonics companies, universities and governments to promote the industry -- permeated the event, he said.

"They really took advantage of this. I just came from a lunch, and the mayor and vc people in town and KMPGs and Price Waterhouses and CEOs were all there. The day before the meeting began, we had a cluster of clusters where Ottawa, Toronta, Quebec and Vancouver were all represented, and they invited Rochester, Tucson and North Carolina to discuss the future of clusters and how to begin doing what they do," Walker said.

"Tucson and Ottawa formed a partnership, as have Scotland and Florida, so they're extending out now to start what they call 'clustering clusters' in photonics."

"The clustering concept has been very successful in Canada. The Canadian government is committed to push photonics as one of the keys to the future growth of Canada. So they used this meeting to present not only technical but also economic and social aspects of photonics, which was kind of unique and very interesting," Walker said.

Clusters of a different sort added a Dutch ambiance to the conference surroundings: The annual Canadian Tulip Festival was also held that week in Ottawa. Some claim this celebration of spring is the most dramatic display of tulip clusters west of Holland.
May 2002
CommunicationsindustrialNews & Features

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