Exploring the business of photonics in the pandemic era

Dec. 6, 2021
The shape of the world’s economies, the opportunities for photonics-related businesses, and how some photonics industry leaders are prospering in these times are the focus of the 34th annual Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar.

We are not there yet—to the post-pandemic era—and according to epidemiologists, we will never be past the presence of COVID-19 in our lives. But we can sense that most economies and most businesses are finding ways to function in the face of todays health challenges, supply chain issues, inflation, and political tensions.

The shape of the world’s economies, the opportunities for photonics-related businesses, and how some industry leaders are prospering in these times are all the focus of the 34th annual Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, which will be held at the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco, CA, on January 24, 2022, during SPIE Photonics West and available online after the event. Laser Focus World Editor in Chief Peter Fretty will be the Seminar host.

In our opening keynote talk, we’re delighted to have Anirban Basu, CEO of the Sage Policy Group and widely respected economist, walking us through global economic data, juxtaposing the pre-pandemic and pandemic worlds, and forecasting trends for the post-pandemic one. As the global economies recover, the impact of the pandemic on, for example, industrial laser markets has been mixed, depending on application and geographic region, with the overall impact being much less devastating than first feared. Arnold Mayer, president of Optech Consulting, will provide an analysis of this data and of the global markets for industrial lasers and laser systems in 2021 and beyond.

As for the largest laser market in the world, dynamism, decoupling, opportunity, and uncertainty all remain good descriptors when thinking about China. But now, what do these terms mean as China’s Gilded Age for private businesses is ending and the government asserts ever more control? Bo Gu will discuss this question and many more in his annual review of the Chinese laser industry.

The morning sessions end with a panel discussion, moderated by our contributing editor Andreas Thoss, asking, “How should companies in the photonics ecosystem respond to global events and make short- and long-term plans?” For the panel, our morning speakers Anirban Basu and Bo Gu will be joined by John Lincoln, Director of Harlin Ltd, and Thomas Fehn, chief sales officer of Trumpf Laser.

During lunch, Jennifer Douris O’Bryan, SPIE’s government affairs director, will update us on the latest changes to international government policies and investments affecting the photonics community. Import, export, and foreign investment policy, as well as global trends in R&D investments will be among the topics she will discuss. 

The afternoon sessions will look much deeper at specific opportunities and at how leaders in the photonics sector are pursuing them. In a keynote discussion, Scott Keeney, CEO of nLight, will talk with Peter Fretty about opportunities for new technologies, products, and markets, and nLight’s long-term growth strategy.

The photonics sector may be on the cusp of a new age of innovation in which lasers are increasingly combined with optics and sensors to enable even more sophisticated applications. Nick Santhanam, now CEO of the Fernweh Group and an author of a McKinsey & Co. study on the topic, will provide new data for these hard-to-quantify markets, and will show that industry stakeholders are recognizing these advantages and quickly moving to broaden the technological capabilities of their companies through mergers, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships. An example of a related application area is lidar for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and Pierrick Boulay, a senior analyst at Yole Développement, will explain how this fast-growing sector will reach over $2 billion in 2026.

Our final session, moderated by John Dexheimer, president of LightWave Advisors, is a panel comprising leaders of some of the most successful mid-size photonics companies in the world: Jennifer Cable, president of Thorlabs; Debbie Gustafson, CEO of Energetiq, a Hamamatsu company; Wilhelm Kaenders, CEO of Toptica Photonics; and Seppo Orsila, CEO of Modulight. Our goal is to get their advice for navigating the issues that small- and medium-sized photonics firms face: How to choose new applications or market sectors? How to address cost pressures? How to manage supply chain risks? And how to think about funding, merger and acquisition, or joint venture opportunities?

Registration for the Marketplace Seminar is now open and I hope you will be able to attend this engaging, networking event.

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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