UK Photonics SWOT – Education, Training and Research

We are preparing SWOT analysis on 7 key UK photonics sectors.   The last draft of the SWOT for photonic Education, Training and Research is below.  Comments for improvement are welcome. SWOTS for the other areas are found in parallel postings

Education, Training and Research


  • Consistently high levels of investment in photonics research from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (£120m in current projects) resulting in a highly diverse and internationally renowned photonics research community
  • Large range of specific photonics postdoctoral training support at multiple institutions.
  • Strong freedom to pursue basic curiosity driven scientific research even for early career stage academics
  • £1bn investment in Catapult centres linked to key application areas
  • First Fraunhofer centre in UK is in applied photonics
  • Recognition of Photonics as Enabling technology by the Technology Strategy Board (Nov 2012)
  • High photonics contribution (~30%) in technology feasibility projects supported by TSB
  • Strong support from EPSRC for interdisciplinary and inter institution research
  • EPSRC centres for innovative manufacturing inc Photonics, Metrology, Ultra Precision & Laser-based Production Processes
  • Critical mass of leading researchers with a strong international profile

  • No Catapult centre in Photonics or any key enabling technology bar high value manufacturing
  • Lack of photonics training / content at non-graduate level e.g. apprenticeships, Hnd
  • Insufficient interest from UK nationals in photonics postgraduate courses
  • Shortage of external photonics skills training/ familiarisation for experienced personnel moving from other industries
  • Lack of training remit in Catapult centres
  • Dissatisfaction from companies in the level of photonics knowledge of new graduates

  • Provision of photonics technology solutions to existing Catapult centres
  • Leverage of Structural funds for SME and innovation support based on inclusion of smart specialisation in local growth plans being developed by LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships)
  • Greater focus on general purpose technologies in latest
  • Established agency (Technology Strategy Board ) focused on high TRL level support
  • Potential for supporting high TRL projects (up to 8) from EU commission
  • Greater use and leverage of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to exchange knowledge between companies and academia

  • Focus on challenge lead support for higher TRL projects rather than general purpose technologies
  • Mismatch between LEP regions and the greater regional areas consider by EU and lack of understanding of structural fund opportunity by some LEPs
  • Mismatch between UK identified eight great technologies and the key enabling technologies identified by Eu and TSB
  • Lack of understanding of the full breadth of photonics impact

1 comment

  1. Richard Murray - Reply

    I very much feel that skills the UK miss the most are experienced industrial skills. Product development, scale up manufacturing, procurement, sub-contracting, research strategy, risk mitigation, etc. These skills are best taught on the job, or through mid-career training. They’re more abundant in ecosystems with many late-stage development companies (i.e. where there is a large ecosystem of late-stage companies), but are difficult to come by in Photonics and in the UK. In my opinion, there needs to be more recognition of this gap in analysis of the UK skills base.

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