Green shoots and hope at Munich

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Before the event, many were nervously suggesting that Laser World of Photonics might be make or break for the industry, in terms of its mid-term prospects. However, with a fourth exhibitor hall and a rise in the number of exhibitors (up to 1,040 from 1,008 in 2007), the event was larger than ever. Even visitor numbers held up, in spite of the economic downturn, at more than 24,000 (down from 26, 665 in 2007).

Exhibitors were upbeat about the event. Jens Bleher, managing director of Trumpf Laser- und Systemtechnik, said: 'The number of contacts was only just slightly below what we experienced the last time this event was held, and we held some very concrete conversations. There was a particularly strong interest in our innovative lasers for photovoltaics manufacturing.'

Among the innovations around the show was a series of application panels, which were attended by more than 2, 200 visitors. Dr Matthias Schulze, director of marketing at Coherent, said: 'Our application panel on biophotonics was very well attended. It showed the next steps in the medical progress being made in laser-based diagnostics – a field that ranges from the treatment of Aids to the diagnosis of diabetes and offers tremendous market potential.'

CEO Round Table
As ever, one of the most interesting events was the CEO round table, which this year was entitled Optical Technologies - Bright Hopes in Times of Crisis. Moderated by Gerd Litfin, president of Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, the panel included: Dr John R Ambroseo, president and CEO, Coherent; Benoit Bazire, CEO, Qioptiq SAS; Günther Braun, CEO, Rofin-Sinar Laser; Yunfeng Gao, president, Han's Laser Technology Co; Stuart Schoenmann, CEO, CVI Melles Griot; and Dr Ulrich Simon, president and CEO, Carl Zeiss MicroImaging.

Asked where there is potential for growth for photonics, every member of the panel believed that microprocessing and photovoltaics represented areas of great opportunity, while Simon also suggested that the biomedical market was still growing. This was echoed by Bazaire, who believed optical technologies would have a major part to play in DNA sequencing and personalised medicine.

In general, both at the round table and in the aisles, the mood was far from despondent. Many exhibitors were reporting sign of a market upturn, albeit at a slow rate, even in discretionary areas. There was still plenty of caution mixed in with any statements of optimism, but visitors and exhibitors alike will have returned from the event buoyant with hope, at the very least.