UK photonics has grown into a £15.2 billion industry, with like-for-like revenue growth from 2020 to 2022 of over 7%. Profit growth has been even higher at 9% over two years, whilst employment in the industry has grown at 3.2% in the same period. 79,100 people are now employed in photonics in the UK. Strong profit growth has means the gross value added (GVA) into the economy per employee has increased to £89,400 per job and the total GVA expanded to £7.1 billion.
The underpinning and enabling nature of UK photonics, recognised in the UK government’s Innovation strategy, means photonics has continued to grow through the global challenges of the last two years, where other industries have shrunk. Photonics now employs as many people in the UK as automotive or aerospace manufacturing, and more than double the number employed in pharmaceutical, steel or chemical production.
Highly focused on innovation, over 50% of UK photonics companies invest over 10% of their turnover into research and development, according to the latest industry survey, and expect to increase investment over the next 2 years. Over 55% report collaborating in a collaborative R&D project in the last 2 years, with the average company participating in six Innovate UK collaborative projects over the last two decades.
Eight UK regions continue to produce over £1 billion worth of photonics goods and services, based on over 1,500 operational locations across the UK. With regional strengths from the South West to Scotland and Northern Ireland, ten of the twelve UK regions employee more than 4000 people in photonics. With increased demand across agriculture, health, communications, defence, satellites and manufacturing and with increasing commercialisation of quantum product, the PLG forecast UK photonics will grow to over a £17 billion industry by 2024 and is on track to reach its vision of being a £50 billion industry by 2035
The UK Photonics 2023: the Hidden Economy report, published in July 2023, profiles the UK photonics landscape, its key characteristics and impact and global position.
Extended analysis, regional breakdown, comparison to other UK manufacturing sectors, trends and opportunities are included in the PLG’s 2023 presentation “Size of UK Photonics – the 2023 update” To be released shortly.