Industry pushes €7bn European laser research plan

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New laser-based manufacturing processes are one of the priorities of a €7 billion research programme being proposed by the photonics industry to the European Commission.

As well as lasers for mass customisation, rapid manufacturing and zero-fault production, other areas to be investigated are laser-based therapeutic treatments, real-time medical diagnostics, advanced sensing and imaging, and solid-state lighting using light emitting diodes (LED) and organic LEDs.

The €7 billion research proposal has €5.6 billion from industry and €1.4 billion would come from the European Commission (EC). The research would be carried out from 1 January 2014 until 2020. The industry claims the research could lead to up to 100,000 new jobs in the photonics industry and a further 600,000 related new jobs across Europe. The proposal was drawn up in response to an invitation to do so by EC digital agenda vice president Neelie Kroes' at an industry meeting held in February this year.

The proposal also has European parliamentary support. The proposal was announced by UK Conservative party European parliament member Malcolm Harbour. He said: 'Photonics are synonymous with a modern and technologically advanced Europe. The proposed €7 billion partnership between Photonics21 and the European Commission would represent a substantial contribution by this sector towards future growth and job creation.'

Photonics21 is the industry umbrella group that produced the research proposal. Photonics21 says that the industry in Europe represents 21 per cent of the world market and that is it worth €58.5 billion. The sector employs about 300,000 people across 5,000 companies and an EC study found that up to 30 per cent of the European economy and 10 per cent of the continent's workforce depends on photonics technology.