Photonics industry commits to 5 billion Euro investment in Europe

Strasbourg, Germany--Photonics21 will commit to a proposed Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the European Commission in research and innovation in photonics.

Strasbourg, Germany--Photonics21 will commit to a proposed Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the European Commission in research and innovation in photonics. The proposal represents a total investment of €7B, of which €5.6B will be provided by the private sector and €1.4B by the European Commission.

Photonics21 proposed the PPP following an invitation to do so by European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes at its annual meeting in February 2011. The proposal seeks to establish the PPP within the context of the forthcoming European Horizon 2020 program, which the Commission will present before the end of the year. The PPP aims to provide a closer alignment of industrial, scientific, and public strategies within the photonics sector. By significantly improving the transition from scientific discovery to real-world applications, the partnership would ensure the fullest exploitation of the economic and employment potential of this sector.

Due to its high innovation potential and its immense contribution to European industrial leadership, photonics has been defined as one of only six key enabling technologies (KETs) at the European level. The photonics industry in Europe is worth €58.5 billion (21% of the world market) and employs about 300,000 people across 5,000 companies. A study recently issued by the European Commission estimates that today, 20–30% of the European economy and 10% of the European workforce depend on photonics as a key enabling technology.

However, like many other sectors, the potential of the photonics industry is currently limited by the so-called “Valley of Death” in the innovation value chain. Giorgio Anania, Photonics21 vice president and member of the KET High Level Group, states that “photonic innovation in Europe tends to fall through in the stage between successful science and pilot scale industrial deployments, the latter being the stage at which jobs can start being created.”

The founding of a photonics PPP would address these concerns and bring to fruition the recommendation of the recently published KET High Level Group report, which calls for forward-driven and long-term strategies involving all stakeholders—private and public—at European, national, and regional levels. By building and strengthening bridges between scientific excellence and innovative production, the PPP will result in the creation of an additional 70,000–100,000 jobs in the photonics industry leveraged to 350,000 to 600,000 new jobs for European industry overall. Anania notes that a successful PPP will secure a long-term commitment from both the private and the public sector to invest in photonics research and innovation, thereby creating jobs and economic growth in Europe.

Priorities of the Photonics PPP include:

- Strengthening European industrial leadership;

- Improving Europe’s innovation potential and competitiveness in photonics; and

- Providing technology solutions to the major societal challenges facing Europe.

Examples of targeted technology development areas where wide impact is expected include:

- The development of future ultra-high-speed communication networks with multi-terabit capacity as a backbone for web 2.0 & 3.0 products and Internet of things nurturing radically new IT services and business models;

- New laser-based manufacturing processes will allow mass customization, rapid manufacturing, and zero-fault production, and ensure competitive manufacturing in Europe;

- New real-time medical photonic diagnostics and new laser-based therapeutic treatments, moving from cost-intensive treatment to early detection and prevention;

- The transition from incumbent lighting technology to low-energy-consuming, solid-state lighting technology using LEDs, OLEDs, sensors, and microprocessor intelligence;

- The realization of ‘energy-positive’ buildings using organic PV generation devices and digital lighting control systems integrated within the building structure itself; and

- Advanced photonic sensing and imaging that enable higher levels of security and safety.

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