Photonics needs to be explained in much plainer language to increase awareness of the technology, was the plea from Dr Michael Mertin, CEO of Jenoptik and president of the European photonics industry body, Photonics21, speaking at Photonics West on 5 February in San Francisco.
Mertin said that there was a great deal of complex science presented on photonics, but that it would have to be made much simpler for politicians to grasp the benefits of the technology and understand how it can create jobs and drive economic growth.
Mertin's comments come after Photonics21 announced its Photonics Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the European Commission, which will advise the EC on where to spend investment for photonics as part of the Horizon 2020 EU funding programme. The EC has allocated €700 million over seven years for photonics-related proposals under Horizon 2020.
The European photonics market for 2011 was €63 billion, 18 per cent of the global photonics market of 350 billion in 2011, according to Mertin. This is estimated to grow to around 615 billion by 2020.
In the US, the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance between industry, academia and government, aims to raise awareness of photonics technologies, and Mertin believes that the joint efforts of NPI and Photonics21 will put photonics on the political agenda to a much greater extent.
Mertin also commented that a better approach to commercialising technology developed in academia was needed in Europe, as was different ways in which to inspire the next generation of scientists entering the industry. He said that higher education should go hand in hand with cutting-edge research and that one of the ways to get young students enthusiastic about science was to introduce them to research ongoing at universities. He added that the same is true for photonics companies, and it's up to the industry to inspire a new generation of young scientists.