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Photonics Digital Innovation hub secures €19 million to boost SME growth

26 Oct 2020

Aim is to create 1,000 jobs and achieve €1 billion new business by 2025 across EU, says Photonics21.

European industry platform Photonics21 has announced that PhotonHub Europe – a new pan-European photonics digital innovation hub – has been awarded €19 million investment from the EU's Horizon 2020 program.

The hub is intended to help European SMEs and mid-caps become competitive digital businesses through faster deployment of photonics-based technologies. Furthermore, it is expected that it will create over 1,000 new high-tech jobs across the EU and “nearly €1 billion in new revenues and venture capital by 2025.”

"Photonics is essential to the functioning of new applications which are powering the new industrial wave – Industry 4.0 – and which are also critical to our ability to fundamentally address the enormous global societal and environmental challenges of our times," commented Prof Hugo Thienpont, Director of Brussels Photonics (B-Phot) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and overall coordinator of PhotonHub Europe.

"European industry needs to be at the forefront in innovating with photonics, making the most of our combined strengths across all parts of the innovation value chain, and working collaboratively across all member states, to support European business innovation and growth.

This is the motivation behind the establishment of PhotonHub Europe which is directly building on top of over 15 year of previous European projects and collaborative efforts by all of the organisations involved in developing and integrating the infrastructure necessary for such a major undertaking."

In order to accelerate the uptake and deployment of photonics technologies by European industry, PhotonHub will establish a single photonics innovation hub which integrates all of the best-in-class photonics technologies, facilities, expertise and experience of 53 top competence centres across Europe under one roof as a one-stop-shop solution with open access for any company anywhere in Europe that wants to innovate with photonics.

As a result, PhotonHub will provide European companies, in particular "non-photonics" SMEs and mid-caps that are first users and early adopters of photonics, with open access and guided orienteering through the PhotonHub front office in Brussels, across a broad range of services and capabilities covering: training and upskilling support; test before invest innovation support; and supports to find investment.

Training support

Commenting on the training supports, Prof. Peter O'Brien of Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork, Ireland, and leader of the training activities within PhotonHub Europe, said "Investing in workforce training is key to boosting innovation, especially helping "non-photonics" people become more skilled and knowledgeable in how to best exploit photonics technologies in their new products and applications.

“PhotonHub, through its European Photonics Innovation Academy, will not only open up the world-class facilities of our consortium partners for hands-on demos and training, but our training supports will be enhanced through online tools to include the extensive use of virtual training sessions and a digital catalogue of further photonics training opportunities from across the wider European academic and industrial ecosystem".

Test before invest

"Test before invest" innovation support to companies will offer expertise and equipment for design, prototyping, experimentation, engineering and pilot production, with further guidance and seamless links to the industrial supply chain of manufacturing in Europe, provided by Europe's leading research and innovation facilities.

"Investing in innovation is risky, especially for smaller companies for whom photonics is a new technology where they have limited or no inhouse expertise or equipment. PhotonHub can dramatically lower the barriers to innovation for these companies to start experimenting and expanding their use of photonics", said Ewit Roos of PhotonDelta in The Netherlands and co-leader with VUB of the "test before invest" activities.

"We have a pool of 500 of the best photonics experts from across Europe readily available to engage with companies on highly collaborative Innovation Projects aimed at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) acceleration from prototyping (TRL3-4) to upscaling (TRL5-6) to manufacturing (TRL7-8), complemented by targeted business coaching and IP advisory supports to the companies to further boost the market-readiness levels of their innovation activities, and all heavily subsidised for strongly committed companies."

HÜBNER PhotonicsSWIR Vision Systems Inc.Edmund OpticsDiverse Optics Inc.ISUZU GLASS, INC.Schaefter und Kirchhoff GmbHDeposition Sciences, Inc. (DSI)
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