Since the establishment of SAOT in November 2006 an international research and teaching network of distinguished scientists from top institutions throughout the world was established to support SAOT and increase its visibility.

SAOT hosts regular visits from leading researchers who stay in Erlangen to conduct research in collaboration with SAOT scientists and who also act as hosts in their home research institutes for Doctoral Candidates (DCs). More than 40 internships were launched for DCs abroad. The most distinguished researchers in the field have been invited to participate in the many international research workshops that have been organized so far for the DCs. Till July 2011 more than 200 international guests presented more than 100 seminars at SAOT. Nearly 20 honorary guest professorships affiliated to SAOT were created for researchers from top international research institutions, many of them returning frequently to Erlangen to give lectures or to collaborate. Many formal collaboration agreements have been signed with international partner institutions. Dual-doctoral degree-programs will be established with some of the partner universities.

The international network is further enhanced by the SAOT Young Research Award (YRA) attracting leaders under the age of 40 from all over the world. The YRA carries € 100,000 in prize money and has become one of the most coveted international research prizes in the field of optics. The prize money has to be spent on pursuing research with SAOT scientists in Erlangen and awardees receive the formal status of a guest professor.

Many publications of SAOT DCs were co-authored with international research partners which is an expression of the high quality of the scientific collaboration in this network available to SAOT members.