President's Message OPEN
One goal as 2024 president is to further improve the dialogue between the academic and industrial sectors.
Optica serves the optics and photonics community in both industry and academia, two sectors that have always been closely linked. My four predecessors as the society’s president exemplify this. Michal Lipson, Satoshi Kawata and Connie Chang-Hasnain have all had careers in academia—yet all three have also founded or cofounded startup companies. And Stephen Fantone came into the office with a background in industry as president and CEO of the company Optikos. (Mentioning these four predecessors gives me the opportunity to thank all of them for their excellent service to the Optica membership in the past four difficult years; my biggest concern today is whether I will be able to live up the to the expectations set by their performance.)
While I have not established a company myself, I left academia in 1989 to join the startup company Nanomach in Switzerland, where I worked for five years. So, like my predecessors in the president’s chair, I know firsthand the similarities and differences in working on either side. And one of my goals as president is to further improve the dialogue between the academic and industrial sectors.
In academia and industry alike, one common thread is that to make something work in the lab, you have to be creative and innovative. At times, you have to be a physics and engineering detective and not become easily frustrated if you do not find the solution right away. We all know how rewarding the feeling is when it finally works, whether for a project in fundamental physics or industrial R&D.
In academia and industry alike, one common thread is that to make something work in the lab, you have to be innovative.
A big difference between the sectors, though, concerns the point at which you can claim success. In academia, success means you are invited to a conference, your manuscript is accepted or you win an award; in such cases, those making the decision do not have to put their money on the table. In industry, the same level is reached if your booth at a show is crowded because your company is displaying a product really worth looking at. But another step is needed to call it a real success: Customers have to open their purse and buy your product.
Whatever their differences, academia and industry need each other. Especially in times of global competition, companies tend not to have the money to invest in more basic research themselves and thus rely on academia and national research institutions to open the door to something fundamentally new. And, conversely, industry knows the market better than academia and can provide guidance on where to focus fundamental research.
This two-way dialogue is not always easy. Optica supports this through journals, conferences and shows. (I remember well that when I worked in industry, I enjoyed occasionally being asked to act as a referee for a manuscript.) Optica also has a suite of offerings specifically for industry through its corporate membership operation, headed by Chief Technology Officer José Pozo, and it strives continually to improve this service. These and other activities can help bridge the divide for those considering career transitions between academia and industry.
To do all of this, we rely on your suggestions. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publish Date: 01 February 2024