European Commissioner Reding sees huge untapped potential for photonics in EU economic development for the 21st Century

April 5, 2006, Strasbourg, France--SPIE Europe--a European subsidiary of The International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE)--announced today that, at the Photonics Europe Symposium and Exhibition underway this week in Strasbourg, France, European Commissioner Viviane Reding accepted the first draft of the Strategic Research Agenda in Photonics from Alexander von Witzleben, President of Photonics21 and CEO and Chairman of Jenoptik AG.

Reding, who is responsible for technology funding recommendations to the European Commission, said, "Europe must link research to the delivery of innovation, economic growth and jobs in Europe." She continued, "It is very clear we must gear up research to remain competitive." Reding further pointed out that while Europe already directly and indirectly employs over 2 million people in the photonics industry, the potential for photonics-enabled advancements in the areas of health care, lighting, security, and other applications offers unlimited potential for job creation and economic development in Europe. However, she warned that the photonics community must be realistic in its expectation; EU resources must be used strategically to realize those opportunities with the greatest potential to deliver a return on investment.

Reding told a plenary audience of Photonics Europe attendees that public funding for research will continue to be more closely linked to applications with commercial potential. She noted, "We must concentrate our efforts on those areas which show great promise, that are of strategic importance, and where we can expect a greater return on investment. Photonics is one of those areas." She further went on to discuss existing markets that are being driven by photonics technologies, like those involving display and CD/DVD technology; however the European Commission expects that the strategic importance of photonics technology will create new markets of which we are currently unaware.

Reding finalized her comments with a challenge to industry to strengthen their investments in R&D to match the higher investments in other regions of the world. She further extended her best wishes to the Photonics Europe audience, noting, "This conference has become a highlight, a 'rendezvous incontournable' for all researchers in the photonics field. I am impressed by the number of papers, more than 1,000, among which almost 200 are a direct result of our funding in the Framework Programme VI, and I believe that this contributed to putting Europe at the speed of light!"

Photonics21 is an industry-focused initiative promoting the need for a far more aggressive and rapid commercialization of optics- and photonics-based technologies over the next five years in Europe. Europe's ability to remain competitive in the high-tech arena is seen to be at stake, as well as the competitiveness of major European companies who employ a large segment of Europe's leading researchers, scientists and engineers working in this field. Alexander von Witzleben, managing director of Jenoptik AG and president of the Photonics21 Strategic Research Agenda, is a prime example of a corporate leader with such concerns.

Over 2,200 people will come to Photonics Europe to participate in conferences covering the latest research in optoelectronics, biophotonics and new therapies using light, solar energy, nanotechnology, lasers, multimedia, optical sensors, silicon photonics and other fields.

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