Results from OPERA2015, a coordinated action funded within the 6th Framework Programme of the EU and committed to developing a joint strategy for optics and photonics in Europe, were detailed in a conference held as part of the Photonics Europe Congress in Strasbourg. The OPERA2015 (Optics and Photonics in the European Research Area) conference, held on 9 April, is approaching the final weeks of a 36-month research project.
Markus Wilkens, VDI and secretariat of Photonics21, introduced the project, stating the objective was to 'increase the efficiency and impact of European Information Society Technologies (IST)-research in the field of optics and photonics by stimulating coordination, interaction and cooperation at a European level'.
One of the most significant results of the project is a comprehensive database of more than 2000 companies and research organisations throughout Europe, all of whom are involved in the photonics industry. Project leaders have collated full contact details for every organisation in the list, which can be searched by country, product area or name. It can be accessed freely at www.opera2015.org.
The session also featured papers from SPIE executive director Eugene Arthurs, who voiced his opinions on the future of optics and photonics research. Among many interesting points made was his assertion that the Western world's views on product quality in China at the moment mirrors those held in the 1950s of products emerging from Japan. Within a few years, he noted, those views were reversed and 'Made in Japan' became a badge of quality. Arthurs' implication was that China may well have a much bigger part to play in photonics – and in the world economy in general – in the not too distant future.
Mike Wale of Bookham explored the ongoing impact of photonics outside the telecoms market, as well as increasing the capacity and data rates of existing telecoms networks.
The afternoon concluded with a fascinating presentation from David Pointer – managing director of Point Source, which has recently become part of the QioptiQ group. Using his photonics company as an example, he talked of the importance of proper business planning for start-ups. Many new companies – at least those that survive the difficult first year – enjoy a period of growth, but then plateau – largely because they never plan for growth beyond a certain point.
Pointer described the huge internal assessment project he carried out when his own company reached such a plateaus, involving staff from top to bottom, which helped to define the future direction of the company, and ensure that everyone understood and felt involved in its growth. Although a lengthy process, the results of the assessment have most certainly borne fruit, demonstrated by the significant growth enjoyed by the company since that point.