30 years LZH: Interdisciplinarity as a winning formula

Figure 1: Minister of Economics, Labour and Transport of the State of Lower Saxony during his speech. (Photo: LZH)

Figure 2: Prof. Wolfgang Ertmer, speaker of the board of directors of the LZH. (Photo: LZH)

Figure 3: Vorstand des LZH (f.l.t.r.): Dr. Volker Schmidt, Dr. Dietmar Kracht, Klaus Ulbrich, Prof. Wolfgang Ertmer and Prof. Ludger Overmeyer. (Photo: LZH)

Figure 4: About 100 guests attended the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the LZH. (Photo: LZH)

In 1986, the Hannoverian professors Haferkamp, Tönshoff and Welling founded the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) under the patronage of the Ministry for Economics, Technology and Transport of the State of Lower Saxony. Since then, scientists from natural sciences and engineering disciplines have built up an internationally renowned institute. With the successful transfer of research and development results to industry, the LZH acts as an innovation driver, especially for the State of Lower Saxony.

On June 03rd, 2016, the institute celebrated its 30th anniversary with guests from politics, industry and science. In his welcome speech, the speaker of the LZH board of directors, Professor Wolfgang Ertmer, emphasized among other things the close cooperation with the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH), the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) as a factor of success. “Last week was the official opening of the Lower Saxony Centre for Biomedical Engineering, Implant Research and Development (NIFE). There too the MHH, TiHo, LUH and LZH are focusing their competencies and networks”, explained Ertmer. “The national and international networks of the LZH and the proven expertise are ideal conditions for future cooperations, for example in the next phase of the excellence initiative”.

Future-oriented solutions for the automotive industry
In his speech Olaf Lies, Minister of Economics, Labour and Transport of the State of Lower Saxony, underlined that the scientific-technical results and the know-how of the LZH are especially beneficial to the automotive industry. “This sector is most important in Lower Saxony and nationwide. In our state, approx. 25% of the jobs depend on it. To remain successful in the global competition, we need innovations and the LZH as a highly competent and formative partner in industrial research. Not least thanks to the support of the State of Lower Saxony, the LZH now has an infrastructure that makes it possible to investigate totally new applications for the automotive and supplier industry in Lower Saxony”, continued Minister Lies.

From the solution looking for a problem to a key enabling technology
An insight of the history of laser technology was given Prof. Michael Schmidt, CEO of the Bayerische Laserzentrum GmbH. “From the discovery of stimulated emission by Albert Einstein in 1917 to the construction of the first laser by the American physicist Theodore Maiman almost 60 years later: Today, laser technology has become an integral part of many fields. And it still has a high potential for totally new diagnostic and processing methods”, Prof. Schmidt summarized the development of the laser.

LZH spin-off companies create jobs
The journey from an LZH spin-off company to an international laser job shop was shown by Dr.-Ing. Clemens Meyer-Kobbe, owner and CEO of MeKo Laserstrahlmaterialbearbeitungen e.K.. From 1987 to 1991, Meyer-Kobbe worked for the Manufacturing Technology Department of the LZH, and completed his PhD thesis on “Surface hardening using Nd:YAG and CO2 lasers” in 1990. In 1991, MeKo was established in Sarstedt. “Today, we have 200 employees and are an internationally operating company”, reported the founder. “We owe our success, among other things, to the optimum starting conditions provided by the LZH.”

After the festive program, about 100 attendees gained insight to the current research and development highlights at the scientific-technical stations. Thus, at the end of the celebration the institute offered an inspiring forum for exchange between very different disciplines and sectors.

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Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH)

As an independent, non-profit research institute, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) stands for innovative research, development and consulting. The LZH is supported by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Economics, Labour and Transport and is dedicated to the selfless promotion of applied research in the field of photonics and laser technology. Founded in 1986, over 170 employees are now working for the LZH.

The focus of the LZH lies on the fields of optical components and systems, optical production technologies, and biomedical photonics. Interdisciplinary cooperation between natural scientists and mechanical engineers makes innovative approaches to challenges from the most different areas possible: from the development of components for specific laser systems to process developments for the most diverse laser applications, for example for medical technology or lightweight construction in the automotive sector. Seventeen spin off companies have emerged from the LZH up to now. Thus, the LZH has created a strong transfer between fundamental science, application oriented research, and industry.