Technology-centric environments always represent inspirational learning opportunities to me. When I accepted the chief editor role at Laser Focus World, I made a personal commitment to learn as much as I could about the industry, as well as the companies creating and using photonics technology. And, considering how rapidly the technology changes, it has understandably been an ongoing journey of questioning, learning, and meeting some remarkably talented people along the way.
The growth rate across the entire community has been nothing short of astonishing. And it’s equally encouraging to see how well photonics-based organizations have collectively weathered the strange economy. The vast horizontal customer base undoubtedly plays a role in providing stability.
Photonics paints the ideal picture of living on the edge. Technology creators who passionately answer challenges—and doubters—with a simple “Why not?” The reality is even with an admittedly cursory view of the industry’s history and trajectory, it’s impossible to overlook the significance of the various emerging sectors where photonics technology is proving pivotal. In each instance, the science-driven, never-ending commitment to research is apparent.
What I find even more impressive is the dedication to ultimately commercializing what comes out of the global institutions, R&D labs, and incubators. After all, commercialization isn’t easy. If it was, there would not be a global need for SBIR-type programs funding promising initiatives.
But the photonics community tends to buck the trend or at least actively pursue avenues to constantly contribute not just for the sake of new photonics components, but solutions to issues across an array of industries. This is true whether it’s a need for better communications technologies, addressing issues in autonomy, improving the effectiveness of medical procedures, or revolutionizing how manufacturers focused on automotive electrification produce batteries.
It’s a can-do attitude that happens to be science-based. And, as a quick look at analyst reports shows, the level of confidence that ongoing photonics projects will ultimately realize commercial value is staggering, with CAGRs ranging from 30% to 450%.
Simply put, the photonics community is impressive. Not only did the community have faith in itself when others look at it as an interesting technology without any real applications, today it is becoming the norm for industries to turn to photonics to see how these scientific engineers can help solve their latest problems.