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SPIE analysis received as powerful tool to promote photonics industry

Latest update on industry revenues, job numbers wins praise at SPIE Photonics Europe

17 April 2014

Steve Anderson at Photonics Europe, Brussels
Steve Anderson, SPIE Industry and
Market Analyst, reports on data
on the core photonics components
industry during Photonics Europe.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, and BELLINGHAM, USA -- A straightforward set of numbers is proving to be a well-received and powerful tool in helping to draw attention to the profound contribution photonics technologies and applications make on healthy economies and continued well-being of people around the planet. The numbers compose the core of the first report in an ongoing analysis by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, on the size of the global photonics market.

SPIE Industry and Market Strategist Steve Anderson presented an update on the report Wednesday 16 April at SPIE Photonics Europe in Brussels, part of a full day of industry-focused briefings. Wednesday's presentation was latest of several Anderson has made since the numbers were first announced at a reception for photonics clusters at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco in February.

In Brussels this week, the project won praise from audiences of photonics researchers, industry R&D leaders, and venture capitalists for its transparency -- an important factor in credibility -- Anderson said.

The impact of being able to provide policy makers in particular with estimates about the jobs and revenue generated by the photonics industry has been illustrated in regions such as Europe, where photonics has been identified as one of six Key Enabling Technologies (KET). The KET recognition has helped pave the way for photonics projects to apply for major funding initiatives, and has helped raise the profile of the field among young people planning their careers.

However, in other areas, including the USA, jobs and revenue have not been quantified in the same way. Name awareness for "photonics" -- and more significantly, the understanding of what the field encompasses -- is extremely weak for the vital enabling technology that is widely applied in every facet of life.

So it wasn't surprising that Anderson's introduction of the SPIE analysis in San Francisco drew audible enthusiasm from the cluster audience, whose livelihoods and careers are direct results of photonics research, technologies, and applications.

The SPIE team started with a manageable subset of the photonics industry, and plans to keep working to broaden the picture, Anderson said.

The initial report looks at exhibitors at this year's BiOS Expo and Photonics West Exhibition, including only those involved in core photonics component production. These 1,008 companies (out of more than 1,500 in the two exhibitions) represent 18% of the total market in the sector, employ some 337,000 people, and generate $84 billion in sales annually, Anderson said. Only companies with sales and employee data compatible with the Dun & Bradstreet business information database were included.

The analysis also found that the USA employed the most individuals among the countries represented at Photonics West, with just under 131,000 working in the sector. Japan ranked second, with 121,000, and France third with 28,500, just ahead of Germany with 26,000.

"We have the great fortune to be working in a vibrant area of science and technology, in a field that is expanding in so many ways, on so many fronts," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. He emphasized that the goal behind developing the data is "to serve the international community worldwide."

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 256,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2013.

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