Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has invited the photonics industry to enter into a public-private partnership with the European Commission, to make sure the emerging technology "gets the support it needs".
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Photonics21 industry group in Brussels on Thursday, Kroes also encouraged photonics experts to contribute to the public consultation on a Commission green paper that sets out major changes to EU research funding.
I am convinced that research and innovation must be at the heart of new growth in Europe. I believe that photonics is a major opportunity for Europe.– Neelie Kroes
"This is the opportunity for us to make important changes that will have a direct impact on European photonics and organic electronics," Kroes said. "I am convinced that research and innovation must be at the heart of new growth in Europe. I believe that photonics is a major opportunity for Europe."
Photonics is the study of light, its properties and its increasingly varied uses. The EU already funds photonics-based research into pancreatic cancer detection, energy-efficient solid-state lighting, optical fibre-based data transmission, and night-vision enhancement technology aimed at reducing the numbers of pedestrians who are hit by cars.
Kroes said the meeting brought together many of the people who can drive the effort to put Europe in the lead in the sector, but said that they must work together and "be ambitious".
"I would like to invite — and even challenge — you and the European photonics industry as a whole to consider engaging in a public-private partnership with us in the area of photonics [research and innovation]. Don't hesitate to put something concrete on the table — but be aware that this can only work on the basis of a strong commitment by all partners," she said.
The scientific field is one of several that will share in a funding pot of €780m that was announced in September; others include the future internet and health and ageing research. The funding is aimed both at putting Europe in a leading position in these fields, and at providing a boost to small and medium-sized companies that could be based on these technologies.
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