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SPIE Leaders Urge Photonics Community to Assert Need for Full Horizon 2020 Funding

Cardiff, UK (PRWEB) January 28, 2013

Photonics researchers and industry representatives across the EU need to let their European Parliament representatives know that Horizon 2020 is important not only to the sector but to economic competitiveness and quality of life across Europe, say leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

While EU member states are cutting national R&D budgets, net contributors to the overall EU budget are calling for a net reduction in the Multi-annual Financial Framework for 2014-2020.

At stake are funding and access to at least some portion of the €80 billion for research and innovation approved for the Horizon 2020 programme, and the resulting economic growth from that investment in R&D. Horizon 2020 funding represents only 8% of the total EC budget for the period.

“Don’t jeopardize the future and European competitiveness!” urged Dr. Eugene Arthurs, SPIE CEO and a member of the Board of Stakeholders of Photonics21. “In the current budget squabble, Horizon 2020 should be protected and not reduced as part of a general budget agreement or sacrificed to appease a factional interest. The innovation community is acutely aware that cutting Horizon2020 would signal that the EU leadership only talk the talk when it comes to innovation.”

The EU's leadership in funding plays a vital role in stimulating national R&D and, through partnering, encouraging industry R&D, Arthurs noted.

“The important goal of reaching a 3% GERD (gross domestic expenditure on R&D) by 2020 will only be achieved by industry through the EU reinventing itself for a competitive world," he said. The EC has tracked the level at just around 2% in the EU since around 2000. By contrast, leading economies in Asia have exceeded 3% for several years, and many continue to grow. The U.S., while like the EU remaining somewhat stagnant, has maintained at approximately 2.7%.

Also at stake with reduced R&D and innovation is progress in meeting a multitude of challenges in energy, information, safety, climate, transportation, and healthcare, noted Prof. Andreas Tünnermann, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF). Tünnermann is a member of Photonics21 and a Fellow of SPIE.

“Horizon 2020 provides the European-wide platform for transnational and transdisciplinary research in photonics to develop sustainable solutions for the future,” he said. “We have to team up and merge disparate competencies in order to develop sustainable solutions to overcome these challenges.”

Tünnermann cited the use of resource- and environment-friendly “green” photonics as a prime example of how the technologies meet society’s challenges.

“Green photonics brings together various light-based technologies for protecting the environment and healthy living,” he said. “They save energy, reduce emissions from greenhouse gases, avoid polluting the environment, or contribute to environmentally compatible and sustainable production.”

SPIE leaders urge membership to remind MEPs that while cuts must be made, they must be made wisely, Arthurs said. Robust and stable R&D funding will help build the foundation needed to secure Europe’s standing as a leader in science in the future.

Members of the optics and photonics community should inspire MEPs with “vision and conviction” about the importance of the technology and urge politicians to see photonics funding as the strong investment that it is, said Spectrogon AB Chairman Dr. Roland Jacobsson, a member of Photonics21 and SPIE Past President.

Talks among the budget decision makers from the European Council, Commission, and Parliament begin next week. Leaders from Ireland, which holds the Presidency of the European Council through June, have said they will push for an agreement by this summer although many observers say resolve that soon is unlikely.

For more information on Horizon 2020 and the importance of photonics applications:

View a brief SPIE Newsroom interview with Thierry Van der Pyl, EU Director of the Directorate on Components and Systems in Directorate-General Information Society & Media.

Read an article on Horizon 2020 by Thomas Skordas, head of the EC Photonics Unit, in SPIE Professional magazine.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional growth, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.

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