LONDON Photonics21, an industry led initiative that counts amongst its members all the main European companies and research organizations in optoelectronics, will next week call for a doubling of funds from national support programs over the next five years. The group believes urgent action is needed if the continent is not to fall even further behind the U.S. and Asia in optical technologies.
Alexander von Witzleben, managing director of Jenoptik AG and president of the Photonics21 Strategic Research Agenda, will warn Viviane Reding, European Union information society and media commissioner, of the massive threat to jobs and competitiveness in the sector when she visits the Photonics Europe exhibition in Strasbourg, France, which takes place between April 3 to 7.
As part of the effort to forestall falling further behind, members of the group said they intend to increase by Euros 330 million ($400 million) a year, or 10 per cent, the amount jointly spent on R&D.
The increase is to be linked with a strong focus on photonics in the Seventh Framework Programme and an associated doubling of European Union funding.
In addition to the extra funding, the group also recommended a pan-European strategic approach to strengthen the sector.
“The USA and Asia spend four times as much as Europe on research and development in the field of photonics. Those countries have also advanced significantly in the last few years thanks to their concerted and well structured policies. Under these circumstances, Europe cannot afford to continue operating on a fragmented national basis, but instead needs to establish a common platform that will provide the essential conditions under which it can compete successfully on tomorrow’s markets,” says von Witzleben.
Members of Photonics21, which includes companies such as Bookham Technology plc, Trumpf Laser and Philips, will also call for much closer collaboration between the photonics industry, research, the funding agencies and the European Union. This, they suggest, is the only way to ensure the results of the excellent R&D in Europe are translated into successful products that can be sold on world markets.
“The commitment of over 350 members hailing from 21 existing and 6 aspiring EU countries is most impressive. But it also demonstrates the players’ shared conviction that unless further increasing investments are made in photonics, a key technology will lose valuable ground and seriously damage related sectors of industry,” added von Witzleben. “Europe should not compromise its head-start in the field of photonics.”
The group maintains over 200,000 jobs throughout Europe are directly related to the photonics sector – two thirds of them in small to medium enterprises.