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UK photonics 'launchpad' offers SME research funding

24 Dec 2015

£500k competition aims to stimulate hotspot of photonics businesses in North Wales.

A new research funding competition for SMEs focused on optics and photonics will be launched in the UK in early 2016.

Innovate UK is making a total £500,000 available to the cluster of companies that work in and around the OpTIC technology center in St Asaph, North Wales, part of Glyndŵr University.

The “photonics Launchpad” competition is aiming to stimulate local businesses by helping them accelerate the commercialization process.

Run with support from the Welsh Government and the Welsh Opto-Electronics Forum, the scheme will also help businesses to raise the extra finance they need to support the projects, as part of a program of business support and growth activities.

Innovate UK says that there are now approximately 80 companies in the Welsh photonics sector centered around St Asaph. They employ some 5,000 people, with sales estimated to be growing at around 8 per cent per year.

Innovate UK stated: “We are seeking projects based on photonics, electro-optics and optoelectronics technologies that have the potential to create new products and services for a range of sectors including optical communications, manufacturing and materials processing, health and life science, lighting, energy, security and safety.”

Briefing event
The funding competition officially opens on February 22, 2016, and closes April 6. The rules state that all projects must be led by a micro, small or medium-sized company working alone or with partners.

Each successful application is set to receive between £50,000 and £90,000, and the projects will run for a maximum of one year. A briefing event will be held at The OpTIC Centre in St Asaph on 11 February 2016.

The funding agency adds: “We are looking for projects that may be too risky for companies to take forward without any support, or that may take them into new, innovative areas, and where the majority of the project activities are carried out in North Wales.

“An integral part of Launchpad is the offer of support to help applicants to raise additional new external finance that we expect will be needed to fully fund the project and its subsequent commercialization.”

Projects are expected to demonstrate significant innovation in areas such as optical components and coatings, production and metrology of high-surface-quality optics, anti-reflection films, 3D printing of optically transparent glass, and rapid prototyping of complete optical systems. For more details, download the competition brief.

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