Photonics – the science and technology of light – is a Key Digital Technology that is radically transforming the traditional industrial base. Photonics is essential to the functioning of new applications which are powering Industry 4.0 and which are also critical to our ability to fundamentally address the enormous global societal and environmental challenges of our times. Photonics technologies are being used to create and launch a myriad of superior and previously unimaginable products in wide-ranging end-user industries from sustainable energy, agrifood, healthcare and security, to smart transport, building and communications systems. Most critically, photonics is also a key enabling technology for the transformation of production methods and new business models in European manufacturing which has been losing its competitive edge as a result of globalisation over recent decades to low cost mass manufacturing locations in Asia and elsewhere. Explore more on the innovation enabling character of Photonics: “Photonics Research and Innovation Agenda”
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Overview of the Strategic Mission
In order to accelerate the uptake of photonics technologies by European industry, and thereby help to boost competitiveness and to foster new business and business models, PhotonHub Europe has established a unique European full-service one-stop-shop Photonics Innovation Hub in a manner which is deeply rooted within the wider ecosystem of innovation hubs and manufacturing right across the European continent for maximum coverage, leverage, impact and long-term sustainability.
PhotonHub has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Grant Agreement n°101016665, in Public Private Partnership with Photonics21.
Grand Challenges & Goals
As a digital innovation hub for photonics, PhotonHub provides European photonics and non-photonics companies, in particular SMEs and mid-caps, with open access and guided orientation to a broad range of services and capabilities covering:
- “test-before-invest” innovation support capabilities along the full TRL and MRL value chain such as expertise, design, prototyping, experimentation, engineering and pilot manufacturing with further guidance to manufacturing in Europe
- training and upskilling opportunities for both technology- and application-specific learning using lecture-based tutorials and hands-on lab-based training within the hub’s competence centres, and even extended to virtual classrooms
- business support services including IP advice, business coaching, and support to find investment from venture capital and other public and private regional and European sources of innovation funding
- seamless links to targeted value-adding opportunities in the wider innovation ecosystem across all European regions, cluster organisations and digital hub networks
The services of the hub are accessible as a one-stop-shop through its central front office based in Brussels. The front office can be easily contacted by completing the following form Apply. The hub is ideally suited to the needs of both first users and early adopters in achieving the wider and faster uptake, integration and deployment of photonic technologies in innovative products for a wide variety of industry sectors for scaled-up business growth and production in Europe.
Innovation, Training & Business/Investment Support
PhotonHub builds on an impeccable track record of accomplishment in conducting photonics innovation with industry, most notably SMEs and mid-caps, and is therefore ideally positioned to commit to an ambitious plan of support for a critical mass of highly innovative, cross-border collaborative projects with European companies covering the full value of chain of innovation activities. The hub’s competence centres act as technology suppliers in support of end-users for TRL acceleration from early stage support of feasibility proof-of-concepts and demonstrators at TRL3-4, to support of industrially compatible small-series pilot manufacturing at TRL5-7, to facilitating full-scale production and seamless transition to market launch at TRL7-8. The finances of the hub are carefully balanced between strong subsidisation of the early stage prototyping activities carried out by the core technology partners within the consortium, and the additional use of cascade funding at the later stage of pilot production to facilitate the mobilisation of existing European manufacturing networks, and the linking of the innovative companies to European manufacturers in photonics. The PhotonHub funding is combined with local and/or regional financial contributions, as well as both in-kind and in-cash contributions from the supported companies as a mark of their commitment to the innovation and industrialisation goals, thereby maximising the financial leverage.
The TRL acceleration and industrialisation steps enabled through the innovation support services of the hub are perfectly complemented by the parallel tracks of:
- training services which equally cover TRL3-7 so that they overlap with the prototyping and piloting services, and ensure the timely availability to industry of a certified and skilled workforce in key technology- and application-specific areas of photonics
- business and investment support services to ensure high levels of commercial and market readiness in the companies.
In offering these services, the hub is similarly providing a well-designed mix of internal capabilities combined with strong links to existing service providers in the wider ecosystem. PhotonHub ensures at all times that its services are complementary to existing commercial services and not competing with them. In this regard it functions as an important matchmaker between existing service providers and the needs of certain companies.
Most critically, the majority of the funding to be deployed by PhotonHub is directly benefitting European SMEs and is to be used for cross-border support.
Core Technology Platforms, Pilot Lines & Manufacturers
The service offerings of PhotonHub are supported through a well-established core network of over 30 of Europe’s top photonics competence centres bringing together 500 experts from 15 member states. Together these partners are building on over 15 years of previous exemplary European initiatives in the structuring and integration of photonics facilities across Europe for SME innovation support action through the networks of excellence, the one-stop-shop open access centres, and the manufacturing pilot lines in photonics, as well as high levels of strategic investment in the continuous upgrading of the existing photonics infrastructure at European and regional level.
These previous initiatives have laid the solid foundations for us to now establish a single inclusive and comprehensive innovation hub in photonics on a true one-stop-shop pan-European basis, working across all of the major domains of photonics technologies from free-space optics, optical fibres, MOEMs and flexible organic photonics, to photonic integrated circuits and laser sources. In addition, the full supply chain of activities from design, characterisation and metrology to assembly, packaging and small series manufacturing are represented in each technology domain, meaning that the entire innovation “valley of death” from TRL3-8 can be bridged in a manner that is tightly linked to existing European manufacturing in photonics.
In coming together to form a single European innovation hub covering the broadest possible set of market insights and industry needs combined with photonics expertise and technologies, the PhotonHub partners are ensuring that there continues to be a holistic cross-border cross-sector collaborative approach to working with industry and delivering a true one-stop-shop system which is entirely market-driven as opposed to a more fragmented and narrow “technology push”.
Regional Collaboration & Sustainability
PhotonHub also includes as an integral part of its consortium the major “lighthouse” innovation hubs located in European regions with existing smart specialisation strategies in photonics. These partners are committed to collaborating on the establishment of an exemplary innovation ecosystem of regional photonics innovation hubs tightly integrated with PhotonHub. This will afford the opportunity to most European companies to have local proximity to the regional innovation hubs as their first point of contact, with seamless fast-track access to the European hub for cross-border support where and when this is needed to act as an accelerator. Ultimately the goal of the regional hubs is to deliver maximum leverage of local and regional resources for maximum impact on business growth within their regions, and to rolling this model out to all European regions for the development of new innovation hubs and the resulting realisation of a comprehensive sustainable network of support for photonics innovation within European industry. This activity also entails PhotonHub working with the NCP network across all EU member states, as well as the existing regional networks such as ERRIN (European Regions Research and Innovation Network) and AER (Assembly of European Regions), for continuously working together towards sustainability through regional co-funding initiatives under the framework of Digital Europe.
Integration with the Wider Innovation Ecosystem
In developing a robust business plan for long term sustainability as a one-stop-shop Photonics Innovation Hub for Europe, PhotonHub is also collaborating closely with established pan-European networks in the innovation ecosystem with a global outlook for connecting with companies, particularly Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and the European Business Network (EBN) for engaging with the large pool of SMEs in the non-photonics industry domains; the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) for business development with European photonics companies, and especially for linking with the manufacturing supply chain for photonics production in Europe; and TechTour for engagement with entrepreneurs, corporate investors and venture capital firms with a special interest in photonics and the accelerated development of high potential start-ups and scale-ups in Europe. Furthermore, PhotonHub ensures that it is fully aligned with other European, national and regional initiatives and cluster organisations for the digitisation of industry, including those entities which provide access to other key digital technologies that are suited to cross-fertilisation with photonics in a multidisciplinary innovation approach.