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UK experts publish report 'Future Horizons for Photonics Research 2030'

09 Sep 2020

Photonics Leadership Group and Parliamentary association identify 70 topics as focus of research objectives.

The long view: the report outlines  the UK's photonics future.

The long view: the report outlines the UK's photonics future.

The UK’s Photonics Leadership Group (PLG) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group in Photonics & Quantum have published a new report on the long-term future of photonics research.

To develop the report, the PLG brought together 26 of the UK’s leading photonics researchers from 20 different institutions to ask them “what will be the focus of photonics research a decade and more from now?”

This analysis identified 70 research topics said to be the focus of future photonics research, spanning materials, optical phenomena, manufacturing processes, devices and systems. The report says that research highlights “include significant developments in existing areas of research, such as integrated photonics, and new areas such as biodegradable photonics.”


The report makes seven recommendations to convert the identified topics into funded research balanced across all domains. The recommendations also call on those working in vertical markets to integrate this future vision into their technology roadmaps.

John Lincoln, Chief Executive of the PLG commented, “It has been an inspirational exercise to look to the future and consider the huge diversity of photonics still to be discovered. We are privileged to work in a field, whose technologies already underpin much of what we take for granted on a day-to-day basis from the internet to high-speed manufacturing, yet this exercise has shown the age of the photon is only just beginning.”

“Alongside the highly valued inputs from some of the most renowned UK photonic academics, we have worked with a team of dedicated early career photonics researchers to put this horizon-scanning project together. They will be the leaders of the future taking these concepts forward over the next decades.”


The report’s key conclusions are as follows: “Photonics has a bright and highly significant future. This scan of the ten year plus horizon reveals a huge variety of important new research ideas, such as biodegradable photonics, neuromorphic photonics and AI-designed materials, where research is now in its infancy.

“Other topics such as the all-optical internet, quantum communications and optical/quantum computing are already established but will see major new advances. It is also clear that integration, leveraging today’s work in silicon photonics, will become pervasive, covering many more materials and almost all applications.

“The screens, cameras, sensors and connectivity in smart phones all depend on photonics with lasers widely used in their manufacture. The next era of digital economy, autonomy and smart manufacturing will depend even more on optical technology to interact with the world.

“Photonics is already the 14th largest UK manufacturing sector, similar in size to pharmaceutical manufacturing and financial technologies, both in terms of output and employment. Sufficient demand from global markets is available to grow the UK photonics industry significantly, feeding it with cutting-edge innovation.”

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