Photonics worth £13.5 billion to the UK economy

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Companies manufacturing and delivering services based on photonics technology in the UK produce £13.5 billion in output every year, contribute £5.3 billion of gross added value to the UK economy annually, analysis by the Photonics Leadership Group (PLG) has revealed. 

The sector employs 69,000 people in the UK, at a productivity of £76,400 per employee - above the UK manufacturing average of £67,000 per employee.

The UK photonics industry is now equivalent in size to the pharmaceutical, fintech or space industries in the UK, according to the research by PLG, which provides guidance to government, support agencies, users, and developers of photonics to maximise the industry’s growth across the UK. 

The continued growth of UK photonics reflects the critical role that light plays in current and next-generation products and manufacturing, commented PLG chief executive Dr John Lincoln. ‘Photonics provides the back-bone of the internet, the key to many modern manufacturing processes and the sensors at the core of many defence systems, but the impact of photonics is only just starting. We look forward to many further years of growth as photonics feeds essential data to autonomous vehicles, becomes ever more integrated into healthcare and digital manufacturing and plays an ever greater role in keeping us safe and secure.’

The latest PLG analysis involved reviewing the 1,200 companies operating in and around photonics, using only the most relevant companies with locations based on real manufacturing and operating addresses. This year’s analysis drew from 930 separate organisations made up of 1,030 legal entities with 1,100 operating locations. Focusing on identifying actual operating locations, rather than the registered office locations used previously, has also revealed a shift in the regional distribution of the industry reflecting the wide distribution of manufacturing sites around the country. The updated analysis also shows like-for-like growth of 8.4 per cent since the last report based solely on comparing companies included in both the 2017 and 2019 analysis.