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SPIE Professional October 2006

Success Strategy

A new UK report puts a focus on strengthening the country's photonics industry.

By Erin M. Schadt

After more than a year of reviewing the photonics industry in the United Kingdom, a government-supported group has released its report with mostly positive, if not challenging, results.
The UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) created the Photonics Strategy Group (PSG) to review the industry and create strategic recommendations to address issues raised by such a review.
The final report, titled Photonics: A UK Strategy for Success, identified many research areas where the UK excels and where more growth is expected, such as lab-on-chip, security, Fiber to the Premises and next-generation broadband, displays, and high-brightness LEDs.
While research was acknowledged to be high quality, serious concerns were raised about the photonics industry. In the report's introduction, Ian Vance, chairman of the PSG, writes, "The UK has excellent research credentials in photonics, but it lacks a coherent and coordinated national strategy for developing and applying the technology."
The report went on to say, "Factors such as the fragmented nature of the UK industry, the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of the subject, and the difficulties in facilitating technology transfer from academia to business will continue to challenge the industrial awareness, support, and exploitation of photonics."
To answer these concerns, the report included six strategic recommendations to work toward. They are to:
Establish an industry/government strategic body to act as the UK voice for photonics and to provide strategic direction to all UK photonics stakeholders.Ensure the supply of highly skilled photonics staff.Encourage newly formed Knowledge Transfer Networks to map UK strengths. against emerging market opportunitiesRaise the profile and promote the depth and breadth of UK photonics excellence.Ensure that the UK remains an attractive location to support existing photonics activities and to attract global photonics organizations.Identify a series of aspiration photonics "grand challenges" to develop innovative solutions based on future market requirements.
According to Vance, the intention is that the group will work with the newly formed Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (PKTN) -- one of 20 KTNs set up by the DTI -- to implement these and other recommendations that might come up.
"The community should see a lot of activity and indeed will be asked to participate strongly -- thisis not something that government or a body of staff such as the KTN will take away and do," says Vance. "It's an opportunity for the community to pull together and make something bigger happen."
Large Facilities Council Created
In related news, the DTI announced this July that a new Large Facilities Council will be created, merging the current responsibilities of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils.
The move is hoped to lend heft to projects that require both large efforts and large facilities. The new council will be responsible for particle physics, astronomy, space science, nuclear physics, synchrotron radiation, neutron sources, high-power lasers, and will manage the Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury laboratories.
The government hopes to have the new council set up by 1 April 2007 and with the backing of an approximately £530 million budget for 2007-2008.

Erin M. Schadt, SPIE Professional Managing Editor

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200610.005