"The ORC's strength is in the fundamental aspects of nanophotonics, while the NTU has close contacts with industry and excels in the applied field," Nikolay Zheludev, deputy director of the ORC and principle investigator, told optics.org. "This is an opportunity to connect fundamental research to real-life applications."

In the collaboration, the NTU will offer the Southampton group use of its high-value industrial-standard data storage facility. "Such direct exposure to real-life application requirements will be immensely helpful in focusing the ORC's research agenda," commented Zheludev. "The NTU sees the collaboration as a way of gaining direct access to new technological concepts at an early stage and as an opportunity to increase its international visibility."

The partners will work together to develop a range of new materials that they hope will help transform existing technologies and create a platform for next-generation devices and products.

"Nanophotonics promises captivating new fundamental physics and new mind-blowing applications in low power, ultra-small devices in a wide range of technologies, from information processing, telecommunications and data storage to defense-related monitoring, security, medicine and biotechnologies," explained Zheludev. "At the top of the agenda is nanoscale phase-change switching functionality, plasmonics and nanoscale concentration of light."

The UK partners felt that it had become necessary to establish a mutually beneficial R&D collaboration with an emerging industrial nation. "There is a real shift of research activities from the traditional powerhouses of the West to industrial countries with good educational systems, cheap labor and a favorable economic climate," explained Zheludev. "We addressed this challenge by collaborating with new industrial players."

"Our collaboration will be a continuous process, conducted on a regular basis by e-mail and teleconferencing," concluded Zheludev. "Due to the considerable distance between partners, mutual visits will have to be relatively rare and very well planned. Exchange visits will include senior staff, researchers at early stages in their careers and research students."