Monday, 01 April 2019

AGM highlights European photonics leading position

This year's annual gathering, at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, began by highlighting the strong position of European photonics.

In his introduction, Photonics21 Vice President Giorgio Anania showed that light technologies, with their rich technological development and economic success, are indispensable for powering the future European digital economy. Photonics, Anania explained, is an industry that is growing faster than both the global GDP and that of Europe.

European Photonics remain in a healthy and optimistic position, Anania said, with global leadership in core photonics segments (50% global market share in Production Technology, 35% global market share in Measurement & Automated Vision and around 30% global market share in Optical Components as well as Medical Technology & Life Sciences).

To maintain this leading position ahead of fierce competition from China and Korea, and given that optical technologies remain fundamental components to solving many future societal challenges and the digitisation of industry, future European support is of the utmost importance.

Special Guest Speakers

Offering the science perspective to future photonic developments, Professor Gérard Mourou shared his insights in his keynote speech 'extreme light for the benefit of humanity'. The 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Physics told delegates that European photonics had an exciting future, with chirped amplification getting rid of nuclear waste on earth and debris in space, as well as in healthcare applications making nuclear medicine less expensive, more effective and precise, for example in cancer therapy.

Radioactive nuclear energy by-products on earth will one day be transmuted into smaller, manageable, non-dangerous compounds by fission reactions, opening up the possibility for 'clean nuclear energy', and debris floating around in space will be 'zapped' away via future satellites fitted with lasers, Mourou said.

Alongside the Photonics PPP Annual Meeting, Professor Mourou and Photonics21 Board members, Jean Luc Beylat and David Mechin met Commissioner Carlos Moedas to discuss the future of photonics research and developments.

From a political perspective, the EU Commission underlined the role of Photonics as a Key Enabling Technology for the future of Europe and gave a clear message that it will support the topic in the next framework programme. Deputy Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Gabriel, Carl Buhr, discussed the possibilities that lie ahead for the structuring and administration of photonics funding throughout the next framework.

Buhr acknowledged that long processes are to be expected when discussing important funding frameworks like Horizon Europe, which need to include input from EU member states. This time around, member states request that earmarked budgets for PPPs should shrink to a maximum of 50 % allocation, with a further 50 % remaining open for thematic programmes. Therefore, while financial support for light technologies would not be in question, the funding facilities, Buhr conceded, have not yet been agreed by member states.

With a view from industry, Chairman of the Executive Board of JENOPTIK AG, Stefan Traeger, had a positive message for the current position of light technologies, revealing that "Photonics is one of the few [industries] where Europe is leading on a global scale". While European success was based on consistent, methodical approaches to government-funded research, Traeger stressed the importance of academia-industrial partnerships to maintain a world-leading position.

Roadmap, Mirror Group, Synergies

After thanking the European Commission for its support in the current framework programme, Photonics21 began the official handing over of the new Multiannual Strategic Roadmap, which marked the end of the first day. An essential strategy for European photonics in preparation of Horizon Europe, the Roadmap had begun as a consultation process at the 2018 Annual Meeting. The roadmap is the next development from the 2018 Vision Paper "Europe's Age of Light", in which more than 3000 members from over 1700 companies in our Photonics21 expert community were consulted.

On the final day, the activities of the Mirror Group, where member state authorities are represented, and the first joint Eureka-Photonics21 Mirror Group call for R&D proposals on photonics for advanced manufacturing were outlined by Sebastian Krug. In the future, Photonics21 plans even closer cooperation with other areas, particularly for end users, to speed up time from lab-to-fab on photonics innovation.

A series of speakers from different Public-Private Partnerships, including 5G, European Construction Technology Platform (ECTP), European Technology Platform for High Performance Computing (ETP4HPC), European Cyber Security Organization (ECSO), European Green Vehicles Initiative Association (EGVIA), Electronic Component Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) and Factories of the Future (FoF), were all invited to create discussions and synergies for potential collaborations.

This year's Workshop Sessions set about defining innovation priorities for the first calls under Horizon Europe throughout 2021-2022.