On behalf of LIA, its members, and its board of directors, LIA past president, Lin Li presented the “Peter M. Baker Leadership Award” to Prof. Reinhart Poprawe in front of over 320 participants at the ICALEO congress on October 25, 2017. It was awarded for the first time in 2016 and honored the namesake of the prize himself for his special commitment in developing the structure of the Laser Institute of America. Prof. Poprawe is, thus, second in the group of outstanding personalities of laser technology who have been awarded this prize. “The Peter M. Baker Leadership Award” is awarded by one of the most important institutions in the field of laser technology worldwide. It is a great honor for me to receive this award as the first person after Peter M. Baker,” says Prof. Poprawe, pleased.
Creating Knowledge, Passing It on and Making It Useful for Society
Prof. Poprawe has contributed to solving technological tasks relevant to society within the field of photonics – by successfully uniting excellent scientific research, selectively promoting young scientists and transferring expert knowledge to the industry. This summarizes his accomplishments in a nutshell.
Generating Strong Results and Visions
After working in a management role at Thyssen Lasertechnik GmbH in Aachen, Prof. Poprawe took over the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen in February 1996; since then he has expanded it into the largest facility for applied research in the field of laser technology in Europe. His particular focus has been on sensibly integrating “Digital Photonic Production DPP” into national and global macro trends such as “Industry 4.0”: the networking of the virtual world with real production processes. The visionary can also conceive of integrating DPP into “biologized production” in the near future.
As a vice president of research, structure and young academics at RWTH Aachen University, Prof. Poprawe is co-initiator of the RWTH Aachen Campus, which has now grown into one of the most important international technology landscapes. Competence clusters on various topics have been created on about 2.5 square kilometers. Under Poprawe's leadership, the “Photonics Cluster“ has been working on producing, shaping and using light since 2010, especially as a tool for industrial production. In doing this, he always has the social benefit in mind. This concept of systematic collaboration between industry and science has been successfully implemented in the Fraunhofer ILT application center for almost 30 years and has now been extended in a larger dimension.
Promoting Young Talent
At the same time, Prof. Poprawe holds the Chair for Laser Technology LLT at the RWTH Aachen University. “In addition to obtaining necessary expertise, students must also develop an early awareness of their importance for the photonics industry. This way, they can be motivated to use their creativity later on for topics relevant to society,“ is Poprawe’s credo. The professor's presence in lectures and the use of new formats such as the “Flipped Classroom“ are a matter of course for him. It was not without reason that his students themselves often awarded him the teaching prize of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University. Moreover, the RWTH Chairs for the Technology of Optical Systems TOS, for Nonlinear Dynamics of Laser Processing NLD as well as for Digital Additive Production DAP were developed on the basis of Poprawe’s initiative.
Leading as a Balancing Act
Poprawe understands leadership as “creating the balance between strong individuals and their collaboration in the team so that they are enthusiastically committed to their institution“. Guiding around 800 laser experts and future scientists at Fraunhofer ILT, the associated chairs and the “Photonics Cluster“, he has developed a strategy that works. In addition to strengthening the photonics location in Aachen, Prof. Poprawe is also focusing on a global network. His important work has been honored, among others, with the Arthur L. Schawlow Award by the LIA, whose presidency he held in 2012. He also received the honorary professorship of Tshingua University in Beijing, China, in 2014.