Work Group 2

The Grand Challenges facing European research are well-documented. Digitisation, and a sustainable and circular approach for manufacturing and materials, will be the basis for a competitive, future-proof industry in Europe. This approach, supported by new technologies, will generate a future European industrial ecosystem with high technological sovereignty. The following photonics-based topics will provide solutions to a future-oriented European manufacturing and machining industry, with an emphasis on export and international visibility in global markets.

New laser systems will be at the heart of fully digital and connected value chains


  • Fast and multi parallel high power laser beam handling
  • High-speed digital controlled materials processing
  • Simulation-based digital process chain development and optimisation
  • Rapid manufacturing of complex individualised products
  • Big data and AI-based production and process development
  • First time right production by high resolution and high-speed metrology and machine technology


  • CO2 emission reduction within the process chain by highly efficient and material-specific laser processing tools
  • Lightweight and bio-based components and their manufacturing
  • Substitution of carbon-based production and hazardous materials
  • Resource optimisation by material-specific usage and processing
  • Implementation of biological transformation elements in production and end products
  • Future proof Ecosystem by technological unique selling proposition for flexible and eco-friendly manufacturing
  • Comprehensive integration of process chain and materials and product life cycle
  • Manufacturing of affordable individualised complex products
  • Long-lasting flexible re-use of production equipment in fast product life cycles
  • Knowledge-based regional and European technical networks


Empowering Digitised and Eco-Friendly Industry with Tailored Light

In line with these challenges, manufacturing in the future will be specifically required to:

  • Realise the technical and economic potential of sustainable manufacturing
  • Realise the potential of customised and near to market products
  • Implement technologies and strategies to bring back mass production to Europe

Europe is in a strong position to meet these challenges: its strength in industrial photonics is part of its leadership in industrial technology, including machine tools and robotics. The global market for industrial laser systems – the largest manufacturing category for photonics – was worth €11.4 billion in 2016, a 7.4% increase upon the previous year. European photonics companies control roughly one-third of this market.

Photonics-related industry has a significant and direct impact on strategic targets within Europe, and aims to provide solutions for:

Digital Manufacturing

  • Realise flexible manufacturing solutions with minimum implementation efforts
  • First-time right production of single products with highest quality and reproducibility
  • Full use of material-specific properties with optimised process chains

Green Manufacturing

  • Realise highly-efficient and zero-emission manufacturing in urban environments
  • Using the full potential of materials within the product life cycle
  • Optimising and efficient manufacturing of renewable materials for complex products

Knowledge and Network-Based

  • Maximise economic potential using knowledge-oriented technologies, solutions and businesses
  • Strengthen competition in the global economy
  • Implement an innovative culture of work taking into account an ageing population

These approaches will address manufacturing challenges in the automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, rail, oil and gas, medical instruments, printing, displays and white goods sectors. By 2030, European factories will be fast, green and flexible, using both existing and new raw materials, making manufacturing more innovative, cost-competitive and resource-efficient. A fully-digital value chain, from supplier to customer, will introduce new forms of collaboration and customisation, new services and new business models – all of which will strengthen Europe's industrial base. To realise the above, the following technological challenges will be addressed.

Further information

The detailed Photonics21 Work Group Manufacturing photonics research and innovation priorities are outlined in the Photonics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda.

The Work Group Manufacturing further has a dedicated section in the Photonics21 member area.