Inpho Venture Summit to attract investment for European photonics

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Greg Blackman speaks to the organisers of the Inpho Venture Summit – formerly Invest in Photonics – about encouraging European investors to back photonics technologies 

Investment in photonics is growing, but more needs to be done to increase private funding for photonics in Europe, Hervé Floch, general manager of Route des Lasers and one of the organisers of the new Inpho Venture Summit, has said speaking to Electro Optics.

The Inpho Venture Summit, which will take place from 6 to 7 October in Bordeaux, France, is a biennial investor conference that will see 20 innovative companies pitch their technology to a panel of venture capitalists and corporate investors.

Previously known as Invest in Photonics, the organisers of the summit are broadening the scope of the event to include technologies that are not purely photonics-based, but a combination of several technologies.

The organisers are currently looking for 40 to 50 European small to medium sized companies with innovative technologies that, in contrary to the previous summits, do not need to be focused primarily on photonics. These candidates will then be whittled down to a shortlist of 20 to pitch at the summit, and will receive coaching by experts and financial advisors in preparation for their presentation.

Floch noted that, in 2015, of the more than €1 trillion private investment made worldwide, €50 billion went to photonics businesses, directly or indirectly. ‘Photonics is ramping up,’ he said, with about 10 to 12 per cent market growth every year globally.

‘The projection is positive. Investors are looking at photonics technology very carefully,’ Floch commented.

But he added that there is a lack of private funding in Europe for photonics technologies. ‘Private investment seems to be more common in North America and Asia,’ Floch said. ‘We would like to amplify the private investment in Europe.’

According to Floch, Asia accounts for almost half of the global private investment placed. North America is second and Europe third. He hopes the summit will help encourage investors to put money in photonics and other related technologies. ‘That’s the intent of Inpho Venture Summit, to show investors that it’s the right place and the right time to put money into bankable challenges that involve photonics.’

European venture capitalists are also reluctant to invest in hardware, it was reported by James Regan, CEO of Effect Photonics, at SPIE Photonics Europe in Brussels in April, although VCs in North America were more likely to invest, he said. Effect Photonics won the elevator pitch competition at the 2014 Invest in Photonics event.

Biophotonics in particular is fuelling investment at the moment, Floch commented, through areas like point-of-care devices, bioinformatics, and clinical laboratories and services. ‘Biophotonics is the market where significant private placement in volume and value has been made last year,’ Floch stated.

He continued that information technology is still leading in terms of value of investment, but that biophotonics has had greater volume of private financing in the last year. ‘Photonics combined with other technology for the biotech market will certainly attract investors,’ he said.

Approximately 200 participants are expected to attend Inpho Venture Summit 2016, which will be chaired by George Ugras, managing director of IBM Venture Capital Group. These will include representatives of the European Fund for Strategic Investment’s Juncker Plan. This plan has investment capital worth €315 billion, of which one-quarter will be made available to SMEs and mid-cap firms through banks, intermediaries and VCs.

The summit will also have a range of speakers from medical hardware, mobility, Internet of Things, energy efficiency, and an alternative technology session, with talks on quantum computing and 3D printing living tissue.

‘I am pleased to chair a new chapter in the Bordeaux region’s initiative to further investment in photonics and other disruptive hardware technologies developed in Europe,’ Ugras commented in a statement: ‘Each edition draws increasingly higher profile industrial players and investors with a singular objective: to strike a deal. Inpho Venture Summit is an exciting place to be for high-level business networking in a unique setting, where, over two days, everyone is accessible and very proactive.’

Since 2008, the conference has attracted more than 500 European participants, 50 international keynote speakers and more than 80 VCs and corporate fund managers. More than 60 start-ups have participated, which together have sought €100m in funding. A former participant, German-based LED Linear, was recently acquired by the Swedish lighting manufacturer Fagerhult Group in a €40m deal.

Samsung, Philips Lighting, Volkswagen, Carl Zeiss, Bosch, Airbus Defense and Space, GE Global Research Europe, and Alcatel Lucent, among other major industry players, have participated.

European start-ups or later-stage companies developing advanced hardware technologies, including hardware to support software developments, are invited to join the closed roundtable meetings with global investors. Among these will be investment directors of corporate ventures, institutional investors, business angels, EU project promoters, entrepreneurs and a range of senior decision-makers from global industrial firms, all seeking to connect.

Similar to previous editions, a short-list of 20 innovative SMEs will be selected to each make a five-minute elevator pitch for funding. Registration is now open to European companies. An award of €5,000 will be given to the most promising company. Within months of winning the award in 2014, Netherlands-based Effect Photonics closed a Series-A funding round.

Further information 

Inpho Venture Summit