The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs has granted the Institute of Laser Technology in Medicine and Metrology (ILM) in Ulm additional financial support totalling 582,000 euros from the German government’s “Future Investment Programme”. The funding is to be used to renew and expand the institute’s equipment in 2010.
The ILM - one of twelve applied research institutes in the Baden-Württemberg Innovation Alliance - received funding of 618,000 (335,000 and 283,000) euros from the German Future Investment Programme in 2009 for the purchase of equipment. 75 per cent of the funds were provided by the German government and 25 per cent by the Baden-Württemberg government.
The new funding will help the ILM to replace and purchase urgently required equipment. "The equipment will be purchased for use in priority areas as defined by the institute's strategy for the future," said Minister of Economic Affairs Ernst Pfister. "This investment enables the ILM to strengthen its performance in key competence areas and increase its visibility and profile."
The funds will enable the ILM to purchase numerous devices. The ILM's director, Raimund Hibst, told us that the ILM will purchase new laser devices, including a white light laser, UV laser and a picosecond laser, which will extend the Ulm-based institute's spectral imaging capacities. A state-of-the-art Nd:YVO4 solid body laser will replace old, partially defective and energy-intensive ion lasers. The ILM will also be able to replace laboratory equipment purchased when the institute was established with state-of-the-art devices, in particular in the field of biology (an example of such devices is the flow-through cytometer).
The ILM's Laser Therapy Centre also benefits from the financial support, which enabled it to purchase a number of spectrometers and detectors for use in tissue and material optics in particular. Another priority technology at the ILM (thermometry/calorimetry) has received new equipment for its calibration laboratory: an ultra high-speed camera (worth around 100,000 euros) will open up new possibilities for the analysis of quick processes, including the analysis and optimisation of medical treatment methods. The camera can also be used for quick measurements.
A small part of the funds will be used to partially rebuild areas of the institute that have previously been somewhat unsuitable for use. These areas will be turned into laboratories thus enabling older laboratories to become offices, which will create space for staff expansion.
The nationally and internationally highly reputed institute is characterised by its unique combination of technical and physical skills in the field of laser technology as well as its skills in medical and clinical application. A major research focus of the ILM centres on the development of non-invasive and inexpensive diagnosis and therapy methods. In future, the institute plans to expand its research development activities in the field of optical technologies.According to Hibst, the ILM’s original core competences of “laser medicine” and “laser measurement technology” no longer contribute to the institute’s growth. For this reason, the institute has focused on further technological development and established competences in optical methods used in medicine and technology. “Basically, we are mainly interested in enabling the synergistic use of technologies that have been specifically developed for medical purposes in other fields of business, for example, for the analysis of surfaces and metrology, or in the area of optical analytics which we are currently setting up.”
The ILM’s particular strength is its ability to focus on the entire innovation process from idea to implementation and application in-house. “With its research and service offers, the ILM is an indispensable partner for companies, in particular for small- and medium-sized (SME) companies that do not have the necessary means for own research, but which are constantly faced with new challenges,” said the Minister.The Minister went on to add that without access to research networks, small- and medium-sized companies are unable to meet these challenges, which is the reason why economic research institutes like the ILM are more important than ever.“Application-oriented research outside of universities makes an enormous contribution to the strengthening of the innovation power and competitiveness of Baden-Württemberg companies. In order to be able to successfully transfer technologies from research to industrial application in Baden-Württemberg, the performance of research institutions of this kind must be maintained at a high level,” said Ernst Pfister.