Officials from the Lorraine region of France and the Georgia Institute of Technology signed a letter of intent Nov. 30 to establish the Lafayette Institute, a $30 million facility that will facilitate the commercialization of innovations in optoelectronics.
Optoelectronics is a branch of physics that deals with the interactions between light and electric fields including invisible forms of radiation such as gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared as well as visible light.
The institute is named after the Marquis de Lafayette, who first heard of the American revolution in Metz, the capital of the Lorraine region, and sailed from there to join George Washington and American rebels.
“An inspiring story of friendship between two countries,” Yves Berthelot, vice provost and president of Georgia Tech Lorraine, said in his introductory remarks at the signing ceremony held at Georgia Tech’s Bill Moore Student Success Center in Atlanta.
The facility is to be located at a 20,000-square-foot building on the Georgia Tech Lorraine campus in Metz. The 20-year anniversary of the Metz campus, where more than 3,400 graduate students have studied and American and French scientists conduct joint research, was celebrated on June 15, 2010.
Dr. Berthelot said that the governments of France, the Lorraine region, the department of Moselle and the European Union raised the $30 million for the facility.
Georgia Tech is to provide resources from its Enterprise Innovation Institute, the university’s business and economic development arm, which aims to help enterprises of all sizes use science, technology and innovation to improve their competitiveness and bottom lines. It also will share its expertise from the Nanotechnology Research Center.
“The Lafayette Institute will focus on the technologies at the rich intersection of materials, optics, photonics, electronics and nanotechnology,” Dr. Berthelot said.
He foresaw potential applications of new technologies developed at Georgia Tech Lorraine in the energy sector, new display technologies and sensors and medical technology.
More specifically, he cited printed electronics, solid-state lighting, flat panel displays, and wireless and biometric sensors.
The institute, he added, is to be “a catalyst for economic development, an innovation hub that we are trying to leverage the strength of Georgia Tech Lorraine’s ongoing activities and research at UMI [a research unit of Georgia Tech and the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique for telecommunications and new materials].”
“This European innovation hub will strengthen Georgia’s global footprint in technological innovation and serve as a link between research laboratories and industry, where technological solutions and prototypes can be developed rapidly to stimulate economic development,” he added.
The institute is to be built including 5,000 square feet of clean rooms by 2013 and is to be fully operational by 2014 with plans for being financially independent by 2019.
G. P. “Bud” Peterson, president of Georgia Tech, said that the institute fit perfectly with the university’s recently published strategic plan calling for “global engagement.”
“This partnership is in line with all the goals that are outlined in the plan,” he said.
Jean-Yves Le Deaut, member of the French House of Representatives and deputy president of the Lorraine region, said that all universities around the world would be connected in such networks in the future and congratulated Georgia Tech for anticipating this trend.
The signing ceremony was one of 20 events associated with the France-Atlanta project currently underway. For more information about other activities involving business, cultural, educational, humanitarian and scientific programs, go to www.france-atlanta.org
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