The Peter M Baker Leadership Award of the Laser Institute of America (LIA) stands for providing outstanding leadership, significantly enriching the laser community as well as decisively participating in the technological advancement of photonics worldwide. Professor Poprawe, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, received this award for his extraordinary commitment to the international laser industry at the 36th International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-Optics ICALEO from 22–26 October 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia (US).
On behalf of LIA, its members, and its board of directors, LIA past president, Lin Li presented the “Peter M Baker Leadership Award” to Poprawe in front of more than 320 participants at the ICALEO congress on 25 October 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. Poprawe is, thus, second in the group of outstanding personalities of laser technology who have been awarded this prize.
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.
After working in a management role at Thyssen Lasertechnik in Aachen, Germany, 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, 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, Poprawe holds the Chair for Laser Technology LLT at the RWTH Aachen University. 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, Poprawe is also focusing on a global network. His 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.