UK photonics report to guide government on £50bn potential

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Credit: Photonics Leadership Group

The UK photonics industry is set to grow to £50 billion by 2035, up from £14.5 billion in 2020. 

This is according to a recent report, ‘UK Photonics Vision for 2035’, commissioned by the Photonics Leadership Group (PLG) with support from SPIE, which calls for government support to realise photonics' potential. 

The report also found that photonics will create an additional 150,000 jobs on top of the 76,500 already employed in photonics in the UK. The sector will be one of the top three most productive manufacturing sectors in the  UK, and be key to keeping more than 60 per cent of the UK economy competitive in 2035.

The report was constructed in response to the UK Innovation Strategy, which identified photonics as one of the seven key transformative technology families critical for future growth and prosperity.

The report also follows the government’s 2021 Spending Review, and is designed to guide those in government departments and innovation agencies now working on the details of which programmes to support now their budgets have been fixed, as well as an aid for companies and researchers developing their own forward looking strategies. 

‘The vision intentionally looks far into the future showing how important it is to support scale-up of UK photonics given communications, health, defence,  manufacturing and achieving net zero will all depend on core photonics  capability,’ said Dr John Lincoln, chief executive, Photonics Leadership Group. 

The photonics 2035 vision calls for: 

  • A constructive partnership with the government to develop a detailed plan and select interventions to deliver the 2035 photonics vision.

  • Dedicated personnel assigned to photonics in the governmental Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK to ensure photonics is integrated in R&D investments at a level reflective of the scale of opportunities and impact outlined in the vision

  • A seat on the new Science and Technology council to reflect the all-pervasive nature of photonics 

In return, the photonics industry will continue to invest, to expand, to train and champion the UK as a global powerhouse for science, technology and manufacturing, highlighting the benefits of investing in the UK in board rooms across the world.