Forum sets new direction for photonics in Australia

By Elizabeth Latham, Journalist
Friday, 09 February, 2007

Strong support is emerging for a nationally focused push to grow the Australian photonics/optoelectronics industry internationally, according to AEEMA's chief executive, Angus M Robinson.

The national push could develop a strategy which will address the current barrier of fragmentation in the Australian photonics industry.

"Developing linked state-based clusters in NSW, Victoria, Qld and SA as part of a national group with an external focus will assist the photonics industry to move beyond its current 'cottage industry' status," Robinson said.

"Unless the photonics industry gains some critical mass, there is every chance it will remain a largely insignificant cottage industry, more or less irrelevant to the needs of global markets."

The first course of action the Australian Photonics Forum plans to take is to build membership of the state-based clusters and participate in the Cluster Working Group of the Electronics Industry Strategic Implementation Group.

Also, there is a proposal being considered to develop and implement strategies to improve the pool of skilled workers in the optics manufacturing industry, particularly employees with the ability to develop specialist components and undertake R&D.

A meeting of leaders in the Australian photonics industry was held on 24 November in Sydney and convened by Tony Staley, chairman of the former Australian Photonics Co-operative Research Centre (APCRC) and chairman of the Australian Photonics Forum.

The meeting attracted 100 representatives from R&D organisations, industry, educational institutions and venture capital organisations.

Bob Baldwin MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, was the keynote speaker at the meeting.

"The government recognises the value of the electronics industry to Australia, and is committed to working with the industry to achieve its vision and goals. A measure of this commitment is the extension of the Electronics Industry Action Agenda implementation period to June 2008, a decision of the government which I recently announced at the AEEMA Excellence Awards event in Melbourne," Baldwin said.

"I invite you all to take this opportunity to get involved in the implementation phase in any way you can, and be proactive in embracing the global future of the electronics industry."

Baldwin reminded delegates that photonics and optoelectronics are priority areas in the action agenda. Implementation of action agendas requires continuing industry commitment.

"With AEEMA's strong linkages with a number of multilateral international industry groups and bilateral arrangements in place with groups such as Taiwan's Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA), I believe that the Electronics Industry Action Agenda is now well placed to respond to the government's encouragement for Australian industry to embrace global integration imperatives," Robinson said.

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