UK Photonics KTN off to a flying start

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND-The UK Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) held its first meeting in September.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND-The UK Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) held its first meeting in September. Sixty representatives from industry and academia came together for a workshop run by KTN partner Photonics Cluster UK (PCUK; Birmingham, England) that included a networking session and a chance to discuss the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Photonics Strategy. Rob Miller from specialist engineering and consultancy business TRW Conekt (Solihull, England) described what the automotive industry-just one of the industries impacted by the KTN-would like to see: “The photonics roadmap must contain real tasks and projects that when executed by the photonics community and PCUK membership, will deliver business growth.” Miller added, “The KTN must establish these tasks with the community and PCUK membership and manage the delivery of same.”

The KTN was launched in July, with funds for the next three years of $6.2 million (£3.3 million) from the DTI. A Photonics Leadership Group (PLG) is also being set up to act as a voice for photonics in the UK and to provide strategic direction to the Photonics KTN. The strategy is in its early days; not all PLG members have been appointed yet and the Photonics KTN is still recruiting its first director, and so is currently running with an interim director.

Event organizer Glenn Barrowman from PCUK explained the cluster’s role in the KTN:

“We are a partner undertaking a dual role as a technology translator alongside the other partners, as well as a provider of the regional support to clients. Other regional support organizations are the Scottish Optoelectronics Association and the Welsh Optoelectronic Forum.”

According to Barrowman, 75% of those attending the workshop were from industry. One attendee was Mike Elliot, founder of Elliot Scientific (Harpenden, UK), who acknowledged the quality of the DTI report on the UK’s Photonics Strategy, and said, “This meeting was a good initial immersion on what the Photonics KTN is, how to join, and how to influence. There is no doubt all attendees want the KTN to be successful and many want to influence it. We were encouraged to influence our own Regional Development Agencies to make certain that Photonics is on their funding roadmap.”

Elliot believes there is a lot of influence needed, and he also sounded a cautious note: “Personally I believe this is a great step if handled correctly by the incumbent director of this KTN. My goals are to shorten cycle time to investment in UK businesses, simplify the R&D Tax Credits scheme to a meaningful one, promote UK entrepreneurial spirit, engage universities in joint projects and reduce the complexity, hurdles and timescales to obtain government funding.” Elliot continued, “I would relish the UK promoting a scheme as successful as the USA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program-this scheme has spawned some very successful companies.”

The next major activity for the KTN is at the UK Photonex exhibition, October 18-19 at Stoneleigh Park (Coventry, England). Laurence Devereux, exhibition director of Photonex commented, “The Photonics KTN remit includes assisting the development of events to make them more enthralling and appealing to those at the forefront of technology whether from the UK or wider afield.”

-Bridget Marx

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