Stanford-Scotland Photonics Innovation Collaboration

The innovative and commercial strengths of the photonics* sector are to be harnessed in a major venture between universities in Scotland and California.

The Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, St Andrews and Heriot-Watt, together with Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), are collaborating in a project which has won funding worth £1.6 million over three years from the Science Bridges awards, announced today by Research Councils UK (RCUK).

The project, the Stanford-Scotland Photonics Innovation Collaboration, is designed to capitalise on leading research in the photonics sector, in fields including life sciences and renewable energy, and the commercial opportunities the research offers.

It also aims to bolster existing links between universities and businesses in Scotland and the US.

The three-year venture between the six institutions will focus on:

• Biophotonics, including stem cell imaging and neuroscience photonics
• Solar cell devices
• Integrated photonics
• Solid-state laser engineering
• Photonics sensors, including atom, quantum optic and environmental sensors.

The project will give talented young researchers the opportunity to experience working in laboratories in California. It will also enable businesses in the US and the UK to share ideas and expertise with academics in both countries.
Professor Sheila Rowan of the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow said: "We are delighted to be able to build on our key existing links on optical materials with both Stanford and Caltech, supporting a wider base of photonics-related activities."

Professor Allister Ferguson, Deputy Principal of Strathclyde and Principal Investigator in the Collaboration, said: "This is an ambitious and inventive programme aimed at delivering huge social and economic benefits. We are pleased to have secured funding from RCUK Science Bridges to work towards this goal. Photonics is a sector with vast capacity for innovation in research and for commercial opportunities. It is dominated in the UK by small companies, and we aim to build on that capacity through this venture, by broadening and strengthening the links in photonics between Scotland and California. Through this project, we intend to build enduring relationships which will form the basis of a network with sustainable economic impact."

The programme will be delivered through the creation of a series of inter-related activities:

• A number of 'proof of principle' pilot projects in areas with commercial potential
• A joint industrial affiliates scheme, giving access to knowledge exchange with academics in the other country to companies, large and small, in the UK and the US     
• A staff exchange scheme between the universities, to develop joint projects with clear commercial outcomes
• An investor network, comprising individuals and businesses with an interest in investing in the technology covered by the programme
• A post-doctoral entrepreneurial fellowship programme, offering outstanding early-career researchers the chance to work for a year in a leading laboratory in California. 

Further information:
Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

* Photonics is the science of generating, controlling, and detecting photons. The photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic field and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation.

First published: 29 January 2009