Strong Partners, Close Network

Strong Partners, Close Network

The Fraunhofer IOF and the Max Planck School of Photonics

June 02, 2021

Light is a versatile tool. Because of its many applications, as well as its unique properties as an electromagnetic wave and light particle, light is a key technology for future challenges of the modern world. One "hot topic" is quantum communication. With the help of entangled quantum states, data transmission can be tap-proof and super-fast – whether within small microchips or over distances of kilometers. What still sounds a bit like science fiction to many of us is already being developed by young scientists at the Max Planck School of Photonics in collaboration with Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF).

The Max Planck School of Photonics is one of currently three existing pilot Max Planck Schools. It is a supra-regional, closely networked graduate school that accepts particularly ambitious young scientists with Master's and Bachelor's degrees. At the School, doctoral candidates are supervised by outstanding scientists in close personal contact and they are integrated into the German research system beyond their home university. Thereby, the Max Planck School  of Photonics does not only qualify their doctoral candidates for a future career in science and research, but also for career paths in industry or the start-up scene.

Fraunhofer IOF develops solutions with light

Andreas Tünnermann

The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF is a key partner of the Max Planck School of Photonics. The work of the research institute, founded in 1992 at the Jena site, focuses on application-oriented research into light generation, guidance and measurement. Together with partners from basic research and industry, innovative solutions are developed at the Fraunhofer IOF that represent a technological advantage in science and industry.

Around 300 employees at the institute generate an annual research volume of 36 million Euro. New fields of application are constantly being developed, for example human-machine interaction, modern camera systems or high-power lasers. Industry and society benefit, for example, from better imaging, optical measuring instruments and modern light sources. The Fraunhofer IOF's metrological solutions also play a central role in digitization. Thus, the institute contributes to technological sovereignty. Furthermore, groundbreaking future topics are researched at the Fraunhofer IOF. Quantum technology in particular plays an increasingly important role in the institute's portfolio.

Multi-layered networks and valuable synergies

The connections between Fraunhofer IOF and the Max Planck School of Photonics are multi-layered: The Speaker of the School, Prof. Andreas Tünnermann, is also the Director of the Fraunhofer Institute in Jena. Furthermore, Prof. Tünnermann heads the Institute of Applied Physics at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, which repeatedly results in fruitful synergies for members of the Max Planck School of Photonics. In addition, many Fellows – scientists who supervise doctoral candidates at the Max Planck Schools – conduct research at Fraunhofer IOF. Research is also closely interwoven at the level of the doctoral candidates: Currently, four of these students are conducting research directly at Fraunhofer IOF, and many more in Jena in cooperation with the institute.

The personal, spatial and organizational proximity between the coordination of the Max Planck School of Photonics and the institute further strengthens the cooperation, for example when the "Photonics Days Jena", a large, international career and networking event for students and doctoral candidates from the fields of optics and photonics, is jointly organized every year.

The close cooperation between the Max Planck School of Photonics and supporting partners such as Fraunhofer IOF or the Friedrich Schiller University Jena is a prime example of the cross-organizational, decentralized network character that makes the Max Planck Schools pilot project so unique. By pooling excellence across Germany, doctoral candidates not only have the opportunity to work closely with leading scientists in their field, but can also benefit from top-class infrastructures outside their universities.

Research with tradition and vision

Promoting young people and connect them to science and industry partners - that is the goal of the Max Planck School of Photonics. The picture was taken during the "Photonic Days Jena", a common career and network event of the Fraunhofer IOF and the Max Planck Schools of Photonics.

For their research and personal development, especially in the field of photonics, doctoral candidates find the best conditions at the optics location Jena: As a "city of light", Jena has a centuries-old tradition in optics and precision mechanics. Since the happy meeting of the optics pioneers Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott, the passion for research with light and the development of photonic applications has been unbroken here. Despite several historically fundamental social and political transformations, this enthusiasm has had an impact far beyond the city of Jena and has made Thuringia an internationally outstanding optics location of the present day.

Together with renowned partners, Fraunhofer IOF has repeatedly developed technologies in the past that have become an integral part of our everyday lives: For example, the development of light-intensive LED lamps, which we can find in almost every household today, can be traced back to a Fraunhofer IOF cooperation. For the development of ultrashort pulse lasers, which today are an important tool for industrial mass production, members of the Jena institute worked together with the "big players". And EUV lithography – a process that enables the production of more powerful microchips and thus further leaps in the digitization of our lives – also traces back to a Fraunhofer IOF partner project.

Members of the Fraunhofer IOF were honored for these pioneering future technologies with the "German Future Prize", Germany’s Federal President's award for outstanding innovative technologies.

Promoting qualification for diverse career paths

In order to continue to actively shape the future, Fraunhofer IOF is involved as a key partner in the Max Planck School of Photonics. In doing so, the School is an essential interface to prepare young people for diverse career paths – be it in academia, industry or even independent entrepreneurship.

"With the Max Planck School of Photonics, we are able to design an exceptionally attractive PhD program for international young researchers," explains the School's Speaker, Prof. Tünnermann. "Virtually and through regular meetings, we create a Germany-wide network among the doctoral candidates and to the Fellows. This enables us to offer the students valuable contacts and resources for professional development in different career paths in the long term. We as Fraunhofer IOF also benefit from this in the recruitment of young researchers. The Fraunhofer IOF contributes to the network of the Max Planck School of Photonics, among other things, the focus on applied research and a good network in the photonics industry."

In a few years, the current doctoral candidates who are conducting research at Fraunhofer IOF on exciting photonics applications and future technologies such as quantum communication may themselves become Fellows of the School and pass on their knowledge to the next generation. Or perhaps they will head research departments in leading photonics companies or further develop their own start-ups, and thus be able to provide new doctoral candidates with exciting practical insights. "I am already very excited to see how our network of young photonics scientists will develop over the next few years," says Dr. Julia Hengster, Coordinator of the Max Planck School of Photonics. "In any case, we at the Max Planck School of Photonics have made it our mission to prepare our doctoral candidates for their personal careers in the best possible way together with partner institutions such as Fraunhofer IOF, and thus to further advance photonics research in Germany."

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