Int’l Conference Highlights Israeli Leadership in Optical Technology

Thu, 20.04.2017 16:38

In the early 1970s, when physicist Abraham Katzir was a graduate student at Hebrew University, his supervisor urged him to get into optics, the study of light. The future, he predicted, was all about lasers and optical fibers.

So Katzir studied modern optics in the United States and in 1977 established the Applied Physics Group at Tel Aviv University. His many students have made significant contributions to the burgeoning optics field – which indeed became a major industry in Israel.

Israel today is world-renowned for its optical devices and electro-optical devices (powered by electricity) for medical and military applications. More than 10,000 Israelis work in optical technologies, also called photonics. An estimated 500 optics companies in Israel contribute 5 percent of total annual exports. Almost a quarter of the exits, mergers and acquisitions in Israel over the least 15 years have been photonics related.

“This is why I started a conference 12 years ago,” Katzir tells ISRAEL21c, referring to Optical Engineering And Science in Israel (OASIS) of the Israel Lasers and Electro Optics Society, held every two years in Tel Aviv.

OASIS 2017 in February attracted 1,500 academics, researchers and industrialists – about 200 of them from Europe – and 60 exhibitors, half of them Israeli. American physicist William Moerner, 2014 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, was a keynote speaker.

“There are very few conferences of this size in Europe, so it’s amazing for a tiny country like Israel,” says Katzir.

Carlos Lee, president of the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC), came to Israel in January to lay the groundwork for a contingent of 25 senior photonics executives taking part in OASIS 2017 the following month.

“What an impressive way to start the year! Meeting 30 top photonics people in Israel and visiting five companies in one day! Very impressive leading edge technology,” Lee posted after his first trip to Israel, during which he visited ISERD (Israel-Europe Research Innovation Directorate) of the Israel Innovation Authority.

At OASIS, the EPIC delegation signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israel Association of Electronics and Software Industries for future collaboration with Israeli photonics industries.

Some of the companies on Lee’s itinerary were Ophir Photonics Group, Orbotech, LAS Photonics, Prolog Optics, Duma Optronics, KiloLambda, HP Indigo and Solar Paint.

Total Israeli sales in optics equal approximately $4 billion a year. Much of that is in missile defense and night-vision systems from companies such as Elbit, Rafael, and Israel Aerospace Industries.

Katzir estimates that 15 Israeli optics companies each ring up annual sales of more than $100 million.

Source: thetower.org

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