Florida Commits $10M to Photonics Research

March 20, 2003
Orlando, FL, March 20, 2003. The state Board of Education on Tuesday approved spending $10 million to establish the Florida Photonics Center of Excellence at the University of Central Florida. The board's approval followed a recommendation by Gov. Jeb Bush's Emerging Technology Commission that ranked UCF's proposal at the top of a list of three research "centers of excellence" to be established at state universities.

Orlando, FL, March 20, 2003. The state Board of Education on Tuesday approved spending $10 million to establish the Florida Photonics Center of Excellence at the University of Central Florida. The board's approval followed a recommendation by Gov. Jeb Bush's Emerging Technology Commission that ranked UCF's proposal at the top of a list of three research "centers of excellence" to be established at state universities.

The Photonics Center will focus on building upon what UCF has already accomplished through the School of Optics/Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers, said Eric Van Stryland, School of Optics/CREOL director. Photonics is the technology behind fiber-optic communications; optical data storage, music and movies on CDs and DVDs; and lasers in manufacturing, medicine and defense.

"This designation will provide resources needed to expand our photonics efforts into the growing areas of nanophotonics, biophotonics, advanced imaging and 3D displays, and ultra-high bandwidth communications," Van Stryland said.

One of the biggest strengths of the School of Optics/CREOL has been its ability to successfully work with industry - creating solutions to complex problems and developing the foundation required to attract, retain and grow high-tech, high-impact companies to the region.

"The University of Central Florida is committed to developing new technologies that will bring high-tech industry to our state and region," UCF President John Hitt said. "The Florida Photonics Center of Excellence will strengthen that mission and ensure that the university remains on the cutting edge of optics and laser research. Governor Bush and the Legislature are to be commended for their foresight in recognizing that the work of our universities is critical to Florida's economy."

The Florida High Tech Corridor conducted a study in 1999 that found 106 photonics companies in the area from Melbourne to St. Petersburg and 148 statewide. The School of Optics/CREOL generated more than $10 million in external funding in 2002, about 40 percent of which came from industry, and has spun off several companies, strengthening the region's high-tech sector and contributing high-skill, high-wage jobs to the economy.

Those strategies will continue as the new center is developed.

"With the Florida Photonics Center of Excellence funding and UCF's continued support," Research Vice President M.J. Soileau said, "the FPCE will produce the 'disruptive' technology necessary for the introduction of new products and the creation of new businesses that challenge, and sometimes displace, industry giants."

Money will be budgeted for faculty support, including five new chairs proposed in nanophotonics, biophotonics and imaging, Van Stryland said. About $4 million is planned to fund competitive research proposals from throughout the state for work in those areas.

"We will invest much of the money in hiring scholars who have the ability to secure highly competitive funding," Van Stryland said. "This approach has proven very successful for CREOL and we anticipate similar success with the Photonics Center."

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