Photonics grows to a £14.5 billion UK industry

UK photonics grew to a £14.5bn industry in 2020, increasing output by over £1 billion over the past 2 years. The industry now employs in excess of 76,700 people, adding over 7,700 jobs in the last 2 years in over 1,200 firms.  With a total gross value added to the economy of £6.5 billion and £85,000 per employee. UK photonics is now the 5th most productive manufacturing sector in the UK.

Covering the 2 years to 2020 the latest analysis includes the initial impact of Covid-19. Excluding that impact, the underlying like-for-like growth rate of the UK photonics industry was 12% over this period, (5.8% CAGR). The pandemic has reduced growth by only ~£0.5bn, due to the rapid adaptation of the industry- the PLG’s Autumn 2020 survey showing 92% of photonics manufacturers operating at >75% capacity.

Eight UK regions produce over £1 billion worth of photonics, based on over 1,500 operational locations across the UK.  Two thirds of photonics jobs in those facilities are outside London and the South East.  Additional analysis shows that an average of 33 new photonics companies have been founded every year for the last 20 years.

UK photonics now employs twice the number of people employed in pharmaceutical manufacturing and the value of domestic photonics output is already 50% of UK aircraft manufacturing and 5 times the value of UK electronic component production.

With continuing adaptation and increased demand across applications from food, health, communications, defence and manufacturing and the initial adoption of quantum 2.0 products, the PLG forecast UK photonics will grow to over a £16bn industry by 2022.

“Photonics has shown incredible resilience through the Covid-19 pandemic and as a globally focused sector, with 2 out of 3 companies exporting throughout the world, remains robust to the impact of Brexit” said PLG Chief Executive Dr John Lincoln. Photonics innovation enables transformative new products and services in almost every conceivable vertical market with increasing demand from expanding and existing applications continuing to drive growth”

The 2021 update to the size of the UK photonics industry, follows detailed analysis by the Photonics Leadership Group (PLG).  Data refers to the size of the industry in 2020. Comparison to other sectors is based on UK Office of National statistics data for UK manufacturing sectors defined by 2 level SIC codes.

The full 1 July press release ‘Photonics grows to a £14.5 billion UK industry‘ is available to download

The PLG acknowledges the support of all PLG participants and Harlin Ltd in the data analysis.

1 comment

  1. Dr. Pramod Kumar - Reply

    It is really a amazing information presented here. Photonics is truly growth accelerator for the industry and economy in UK as well as around the world.
    Dr. Pramod KUMAR
    M.Phil. (Inst. Physics), Ph.D. (Laser Tech.)
    Principal Scientist of Quantum Photonics
    Research Team Leader, QuantLase Lab.
    Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

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