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Headlines Published on 21 December 2006

Title Photonics to have bright future in European research agenda

European photonics research got a boost recently when it was announced that funding for the high tech field would increase by 40 percent in 2007-2008. An increase in research funding had been one of the central recommendations of the Strategic Research Agenda drafted by Photonics21, the European Technology Platform, designed as an interface between industry players and European public officials. Photonics, the science and research of generating, controlling, and detecting photons in light, has significant implications on European high tech industries.

European firms control up to 50 percent of some key photonics markets. © Matt+
European firms control up to 50 percent of some key photonics markets.
European markets from telecommunications to agriculture are dependant upon photonic research as a driver of their respective key technologies. Photonics21 estimates that 2 million jobs are either directly or indirectly linked to photonics. As a result, 16 percent of the entire working population is affected by the future successes of the photonics sector. Of those, 200 000 Europeans work directly with photonic technology - two thirds of them are small and medium sized enterprises, key drivers of innovation in Europe.

“The boost being given to the area by the EU represents a large step forward, in view of the ongoing process of structural change, and will allow photonics-related topics to become firmly anchored in the 7th Framework Program. The first essential foundations have been laid, namely a photonics community at European level and the appropriate funding resources. The next step is to make use of this newly established basis in order to achieve our planned objectives on a reasonable time scale,” said Alexander von Witzleben, president of Photonics21, after the announcement.

It is estimated that European photonics companies control 30 percent of the world market for solid state lighting and at least 50 percent of the world laser-assisted manufacturing, according to a report by, an industry website. However, the report also notes that the photonics sector may be losing ground to Asian competitors in other areas, such as the LCD display market, for example. Public funding in Asia and the US for photonics is estimated to be to well above that in Europe.

In response to such worrying statistics, there were renewed calls for greater cooperation across Europe in photonics at the Photonics21 annual meeting, where the funding increase was announced. For their part, members of Photonics21 pledged to increase their own funding by €330 million per year.

The Photonics21 Technology platform is a joint undertaking by leading players in the photonics industry representing 500 members from 21 EU Member States and six third party countries. Its executive board is comprised of executives from such leading European firms as TRUMPF Laser and Electronics Division, Bookham Technology plc, Sagem Défense SÚcuritÚ, Philips Lighting B.V. and Carl Zeiss AG.

More information:

  • Photonics21 homepage
  • ICT rsearch in FP7

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