Photonics21 asks for €1.4bn commitment from Horizon Europe

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Industry body Photonics21 has released a position statement saying the European photonics sector is ready to invest €100 billion in research and innovation over the course of the European Commission’s Horizon Europe 2021-2027 funding programme.

The paper states the €100 billion commitment will be made if a photonics public-private partnership (PPP) is launched by the Commission.

Photonics21 will ask the European Commission to facilitate a Horizon Europe Photonics Partnership that doubles the annual commitment of the previous PPP to €200 million, or €1.4 billion over the course of the next research funding initiative.

Horizon 2020, the last EC funding programme that’s coming to an end, included a specific photonics PPP. But the draft for Horizon Europe doesn’t explicitly mention photonics, which might mean photonics could lose significance in European economic policy, Spectaris' Dr Wenko Süptitz wrote in an article for Electro Optics in March.

Horizon Europe has a proposed budget of €100 billion over the period of 2021 to 2027. The Commission has launched an online consultation process to help finalise the strategic plan for Horizon Europe, which will close on 8 September.

The Commission will also run the European Research and Innovation Days in Brussels from 24 to 26 September to help shape Horizon Europe.

Earlier in the year, Nobel laureates Stefan Hell, Gérard Mourou and Theodor Hansch wrote an open letter to the European Commission criticising the decision not to include photonics as a specific visible objective within Horizon Europe.

Meanwhile the European Photonics Industry Consortium and the European Optical Society have both expressed concerns about Horizon Europe’s draft strategic plan.

In the Horizon 2020 photonics PPP, Photonics21 has shown that every €1 invested by the European Commission is leveraged by €5 from photonics SMEs. Moreover, an independent expert group of the European Commission rated the Photonics PPP best in class, according to Photonics21 vice president Giorgio Anania.

‘Photonics is a truly European success story,’ said Photonics21 vice president Bernd Schulte. ‘The 5,000 photonics SMEs in Europe are highly competitive and have created and will create high-tech jobs every day. However, we experience an increasingly fierce – often state-backed – competition from outside Europe.’

According to the Photonics21 position statement, the China central government has increased its investment in photonics every year by 40 per cent, to reach €1 billion in 2020; the South Korea government spending in photonics will increase to €2.8 billion per annum by next year; and the US has set up a $610 million public-private partnership to help strengthen high-tech US-based photonics integrated circuit manufacturing.

‘We firmly believe that Europe needs to become more ambitious now and match the aspiring investments from other regions of the world in deep technologies to stay competitive. The photonics industry is willing to team up with the European Commission and jointly invest in the future of Europe,’ Schulte added.

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