The Brussels Photonics Team
at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
Photonics has been officially acknowledged as a key enabling technology in
Europe. Driven by global trends and growing awareness, Europe is experiencing
industry growth and an increase in the number of optical societies and public-
private partnerships that promote photonics applications.
Optical scientists and engineers have always known that photonics drives
modern applications—and now global
governments are recognizing it as well.
In late 2009, for example, the European
Commission named photonics as one of
the European Union’s key enabling technologies. ;e other four include advanced
materials, nano- and micro-electronics,
biotechnology and nanotechnology.
As a starting point, several European
Union (EU) member states have identified enabling technologies and targeted
their R&D spending accordingly. It goes
without saying that, given the unique
strengths and limitations of the research
and industrial landscape in various European countries, the 27 EU member states
have taken di;erent positions on which
areas they regard as most important.
However, based upon reports by
a key technologies expert group, the
German Federal Ministry of Education
and Research, the French Ministry of
Economy, Finance and Industry and the
U.K. Technology Strategy Board, there
is strong support for photonics in France,
Germany and the United Kingdom.
Other EU countries are not necessarily
less active, but they cannot always easily foster photonics, particularly in the
absence of big optics industries.
Nevertheless, looking at the 22
national optical societies united in the
EOS participating countries.
platform, which is a voluntary association of industrial enterprises, academics
and other stakeholders.
In previous years, European stakeholders were not able to reach agreement about which technologies need
more strategic cooperation to improve
industrial competitiveness. ;ese days,
however, photonics is emerging as a critical technological area, thanks to global
trends, increased awareness due to strategic partnerships, and some very clear
facts and figures. Consider the following,
European Optical Society (EOS), it is
obvious that optics and photonics play
an important role in smaller EU member
states too. ;e recent formation of new
national optical societies in Portugal,
Latvia, the Ukraine and Greece shows
that photonics stakeholders are uniting
to gain more visibility.
In order to boost research and development, the European Commission has
encouraged the formation of technology platforms, which are public-private
partnerships aimed at developing sectoral
R&D programs rapidly and e;ectively.
On the model of a European technology
platform called Photonics21, many national platforms have been established,
and more are under way. One example
is PHORIT, an Italian technological
c ;e European photonics industry
accounted for revenues of about $65
billion in 2006, and it is continuing
to grow rapidly.
c In particular, the green photonics share
is expected to grow from some 8 per-
cent to more than 50 percent in 2020.
c ;ere are about 5,000 photonics
manufacturers in Europe that employ
around 246,000 people (excluding
subcontractors). In addition, the jobs
of more than 2 million more employees in the EUś manufacturing sector
depend directly on photonic products.
;e 7th Framework Program of the European Union (FP7) is the EU’s main instrument for funding research from 2007
until 2013, with the goal of encouraging
18 | OPN Optics & Photonics News