UK Photonics in the news BBC News

BBC news: The many ways lasers help us see the world more clearly –

Photonics enabling Advanced Engineering

Advanced Engineering  is one of the biggest trade shows in the UK, with 700+ exhibiting companies and 13,000 attendees bringing together engineering decision-makers from OEM’s and top tier manufacturers across many sectors. The show features many manufacturers with a focus this year on Aerospace, Automotive, Performance Metals and Composites.

The KTN and are running a session on Photonics in Applied Engineering at the show to highlight how Photonics impacts many aspects of advanced engineering and offering brokerage opportunities, for more details and registration for 3rd Nov 2016

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Emerging and Enabling technologies competition

Only three briefings left for Innovate’s latest Emerging and Enabling technology competition

  • Cardiff on Thursday 20 October 2016,
  • Bristol on Wednesday 26 October 2016,
  • Glasgow on Wednesday 26 October 2016

Make sure you get the latest on this £15million competition targeting

  • any emerging technology that can demonstrate a step change in performance and the potential to disrupt existing industrial approaches; we are particularly looking to fund projects in energy harvesting, imaging technologies, graphene or biofilms
  • any enabling technology in: satellite applications; electronics; sensors; photonics; digital; internet of things; data; cybersecurity; virtual or augmented reality; and distributed ledger technology


Minutes fom PLG meeting

The minutes from the last PLG meeting on 7 September in Leeds are now available. Please contact the PLG if you would like a copy.

UK infrared and broadband imaging supply chain

Multiband Imaging exampleNew multiband imaging chips offer the potenital for lightweight simultaneious imaging from LWIR thermal range to the visible spectrum.  However, operational systems also need simultanous break throughs in optical matierals, coatings, electroincs, image processing and system design.  Advances in all of these are taking place in the UK, but lack of ‘visibility’, coordination and ‘focus’ will delay new products and reduce the opportunity.

We are therefore encouraging collaboration throughout the supply chain to accelerate the UK development and adoption of next generation IR & multiband imaging solutions.

There will be an initial meeting alongside SPIE Security+ Defence and Remote sensing in Edinburgh, on Wed 28 Sep. 13:30 – 15:00.  Please contact us if you wold like to attend or add you name at

You can also contribute remotely workspace at This on-line tool enables multiple inputs/viewpoints can be gathered without having to attend meetings in person. The process should be self-explanatory, please make your own additions, comments and highlights.  You will be asked to provide an email address when you first access the Groupmap, and can return to the map at any point to see contributions from others.  Our initial aim is to capture:-

  • What strengths and gaps do we have in the UK,
  • Who are the UK players developing and adopting innovation
  • Agree what are the key elements of IR imaging supply chain,
  • What potential actions to take to drive innovation and subsequent steps?

For further information you may also add yourself to the distribution list for this working group.

Supported by PLG, KTN, ChAMP  and open to input from all organisations.

Update to UK Photonics Industry figures


Map UK Photonics Companies

We will shortly begin the process of updating the figures for UK photonics output and employment, in collaboration with the KTN and the Future Photonics Hub.
UK Photonics
Future figures will be based on the list of companies making up the UK photonics map. Please check your organisation is on the map with the correct address, any updates please contact the PLG

Lasers for industry 4.0 – latest trends in laser based manufacturing from Photonics21

With photonics technology, especially lasers, central to the digitising of manufacturing and industry 4.0 Photonics21 Working Group 2 have analysed EU funded projects in Laser Based Manufacturing from 2010 onward and compared to current market trends.

Whilst the technical content of funded projects to industry trends is strong, the analysis shows key emerging applications have not been covered. Although the UK’s relationship to Europe is in flux, these emerging applications present signficant global opportunities for all.


The UK is still a great place to do business

Among all the Brexit headlines, there is great deal about doing business in the UK we take for granted:-

  • The UK has the lowest corporation tax rate at 20% of any of G20 countries, that’s half that of the USA and 50% of that in Germany.
  • The UK is global centre of knowledge generation producing 6.4% of all global scientific papers and 16% of the world most highly cited articles from <1% of the world’s population.
  • We have the most flexible labour market in the EU and some of the lowest social security contributions, at 13.8% one third of the rate in France.
  • The UK has some of the world most generous early stage investor tax breaks with investors getting income tax relief on investment and any losses and paying no capital gains or inheritance tax on qualifying investments.
  • R&D tax credits in UK can almost half the cost of development expenditure and patent box means UK companies can pay only 10% tax on products incorporating patented innovation.
  • The UK remains the 6th easiest place to do business in the world.

Sources: Invest in the UK:  your springboard for global growth (UK Trade and Investment)

The Upside of Brexit- photonic exports

Away from the political chaos caused by the Brexit vote, it is worth reflecting that industry is much more comfortable with absorbing unforeseen change than our politicians or press appear to be.  Everyday companies take in their stride changing customer demand, new product introductions, changes in personal, vagaries in delivery and host of other factors they must absorb to deliver and exceed customer expectation.

Successful companies, of which we have a great many in the UK, are masters of consistent, calm delivery based on smoothing and managing a host of varying inputs.  Brexit does not change this.  Indeed, we can expect business to be the calming blanket, which, whilst not generating headlines, does keep the ship moving forward.  A good product last week is still a good product today.

For high value manufacturers, which includes most of the 1500 photonics companies in the UK, the exchange rate shift can also have benefit.   Cost of imported materials may rise, but in high value photonics products, the component bill of material is only a small fraction of the final selling price. A great deal more value is added in the design, assembly and support of such systems. The absolute increase in the cost of materials to the UK manufacturer is thus small relative to the reduction in final system price to the end international customer caused by the falling value the pound. Give that photonics is such a global market place this makes UK produced photonics instantly more attractive, making this a great time to focus on UK photonics exports.

Collaborative funding for RandD post Brexit?

With Brexit what will the future look like for UK organisations participating in EU R&D projects. It will be at least 2 years, probably longer, before the details of Brexit are finalised. In the mean time UK organisations can still apply for EU funding as normal.   For the longer term impact we can look to Switzerland for inspiration and for anticipated developments.

The Swiss currently have partial association with H2020.  In practice this means they can fully participate in some program e.g:-

  • Enabling and Industrial Technologies e.g your classic multi-partner ICT projects called in work programmes steered by Photonics 21.  Swiss organisations can participate, as so called 3rd countries, but are funded direct from Swiss authorities and don’t count toward the minimum number of participants.  They are in effect bonus partners, with the benefits that adding a Swiss partner to a project doesn’t dilute the overall budget, but adds to the funding pot.
  • Excellence in Science/ EU research Council.   Switzerland pays into EU for participation and funds flow to successful applicants from EU commission just as other EU countries.  However, this is likely to change in the future and move to Swiss partners being funded locally as in Enabling tech above.
  • Innovation in SMEs and access to risk finance. The Swiss are not able to participate in these programs ie. no Open Disruption Innovation SME instrument or Fast track to innovation (TBC).

For the UK a similar mixed model is likely.  The exact balance being determined by availability of UK funds (cf ERANET+), perceptions of benefits to all and broader policies e.g. on immigration (the lack of Swiss ratification of a protocol on freedom of movement directly impacted their H2020 association status). For more discussion on Swiss relationship to H2020.

The timelines of Brexit are also approximately aligned to the end of H2020.  Therefore the main impact of Brexit will be on UK participation in whatever follows H2020, with current trends indicating a focus on digitising industry in the broadest sense.

Given that participation is most likely to continue to be possible, the UK should continue to fully participate in bodies such as Photonics21 that help steer direction of future collaborative projects across Europe.  Indeed being an independently supported bonus partner could be positively beneficial to many consortia, where UK (or Swiss) orgs can provide significant expertise, provided there is sufficient funding from the UK

Many thanks to Swiss Photonics for guidance on above.  The PLG will continue to input into and monitor developments closely with further commentary in the near future.