Interview with Dr. Klaus Schindler, Chief Executive OptoNet e. V.
Dr. Klaus Schindler, Chief Executive OptoNet e. V. | © OptoNet e.V.
What do you consider to be the advantages of Thuringia as an industry and technology location?
Of particular relevance for the photonics industry is one thing: Thuringia can look back on a more than 100-year tradition as an optics location. Many newly grounded companies were able to build on this after 1990, and enter the world market with innovative products and technologies. The high concentration of stakeholders – from industry, science and education – located in a relatively small geographical area is an important location advantage for photonics from Thuringia and, simultaneously, the basis for a particularly productive partnership culture.
How can international companies benefit from being part of the OptoNet cluster?
For many small and medium-sized companies it’s first and foremost about having a stable representation of their interests. To be perceived as an innovative, high-performance industry with national and international appeal is essential in the competition for qualified personnel. Over and above this we also provide companies with a partnership platform, organize national and international trade fair presence, and actively support joint R&D projects. Technology workshops and conferences allow us to promote the specialist development of the region. Small and medium-sized companies benefit in particular from our diverse networking activities and contacts. Our subsidiary company helps secure concrete R&D project funding and provides innovation management consultancy services.
What are the most notable project successes you have had in the cluster to date?
We are extremely delighted to have been named as a winner in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s “Internationalisation of Leading-Edge Clusters, Forward-Looking Projects, and Comparable Networks” competition. Our winning “Global Power: Photonic Solutions for Questions for the Future” project is creating a mid- to long-term road map for the internationalization of cluster activities as well as up to three R&D projects with selected clusters in the USA, Canada, Japan, and South Korea.
In addition, international exchange programs, the internationalization of the workforce and start-up activity support play a key role. This project will allow OptoNet to raise its international activities to a completely new level, to further professionalize and offer new services to our members. Other successful projects amongst others include the OptoNet-coordinated fo+ (freeform optics plus) growth core, in which 10 leading cluster representatives are working on the development of innovative freeform optics. Our OptoNet MASTER+ project is helping promote the next generation of researchers: highly motivated and high-achieving students in optics-related Master’s study programs are prepared for a career in the Thuringian photonics sector as part of a one-year excellence program. Company working conditions are also becoming increasingly important in the competition for skilled specialists. As part of our “GAP – Gesunde Arbeit in Pionierbranchen (‘Healthy Working in Innovative Industries’)” project, we are working closely together with scientists and occupational physicians to develop recommendations for improving the working environment in the INDUSTRIE 4.0 age.