SAOT: A Graduate School of the German Excellence Initiative

The Excellence Initiative aims to promote top-level research and to improve the quality of German universities and research institutions in general, thus making Germany a more attractive research location, making it more internationally competitive and focusing attention on the outstanding achievements of German universities and the German scientific community.

After the Excellence Initiative was passed by the German federal and state governments in 2005, the German Research Foundation (DFG) was given responsibility for running the initiative together with the German Science Council.


Today, optics is widely regarded as one of the most important key technologies for this century. Many experts even anticipate that the 21st century will be the century of the photon. Optics and optical technologies have impact to nearly all areas of life and cover a wide range of applications in science and industry, e.g. in information and communication technology, in production, process and particle engineering, in medicine, medical technology and life science engineering as well as in energy and environmental technology. Optics is a key underpinning science and baseline technology. Innovations in optics and optical technologies are thus important not only for the subject itself but also for practically all other topics and market segments.

To fully exploit this vast potential fully it is of great importance to adapt the academic education to the requirements of optics and optical technologies. This is a challenging task as optics is extremely interdisciplinary in its application fields. Physicists, chemists, biologists, physicians and engineers working in many disciplines (e.g., materials science, metrology, medicine, manufacturing technology) often use similar optical methods but without close collaboration and thus without knowledge transfer between the disciplines. Because of this diversity and the all-pervasive nature of optics, the efficiency of research and development in optical technology is quite low and must be improved by better academic education. The graduate education of personally and technically highly skilled engineers and scientists in the broad area of optics and optical technologies will achieve further progress in the development and application in this field and especially at the interfaces between the disciplines Physics, Engineering and Medicine. It forms one of the strong pillars for the future scientific and technological innovations and thus for the economic competitiveness of German business and society.

The Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) provides the infrastructure and the scientific competence in all mentioned disciplines within the Erlangen Graduate School in Advanced Optical Technologies (SAOT) forming a world-leading center for the academic education in optics and optical technologies. SAOT provides an interdisciplinary research and education program of excellence within a broad international network of distinguished experts to promote innovation and leadership in the areas optical metrology, optical material processing, optics in medicine, optics in communication and information technology, optical materials and systems, and computational optics.


The Erlangen Graduate School in Advanced Optical Technologies (SAOT) was established at the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in November 2006 within the framework of the German Excellence Initiative by the German federal and state governments to promote science and research at German universities within a strong competition between more than 110 German universities.

Out of 580 submitted proposals only 76 proposals were granted. Related to engineering sciences including computer science, only 14 proposals were granted. FAU was granted one graduate school "SAOT" and one cluster of excellence "Engineering of Advanced Materials" (EAM).

SAOT is set up at the university level directly under the umbrella of the FAU Graduate School at the same level at which the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) and the graduate schools of the five FAU faculties are installed forming an interdisciplinary class of the FAU Graduate School.