Update on Photonics Components Business

New study values business at $182 billion annually.

01 October 2015

The value of annual sales in the global photonics components market has been updated to US $182 billion, according to new analysis by SPIE.

Stephen Anderson, photonics industry and market strategist for SPIE, told exhibitors at SPIE Optics + Photonics in August that the 2012 research that put the annual value of the photonics components market at nearly $160 billion has been refined and updated.

An SPIE team working over the past two years to refine the list of key industry players and their sales found increases in the number of active companies, sales, and employees.

“In 2012 there were 2750 photonics companies worldwide, employing 686,000 people,” Anderson said. “By 2014, we saw an 18% increase in the number of active companies, now totaling 3194.”

Because sales were up by 15% over the two years, “the global business is worth $182 billion per year, and we now believe it employs 863,000 individuals, which would represent an increase of 26% over 2012,” he said.

photo of Stephen AndersonAnderson described the updated analysis as “valuable information for industry leaders and academic researchers seeking to communicate the impact of the field.” These data have become more important in recent years, not just for forecasting and supporting investment, but increasingly at the political level with developments such as the US National Photonics Initiative and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programs, into which serious public money and policies are being directed.

Anderson explained how the list had been refined and the significant changes identified. “In updating the 2012 dataset of 2713 companies, we took 193 out, and 674 were added,” he said. “So we ended up with a net change of 481. Of these, 305 Asian companies were added, 91 European, and 81 from the US.”

Referring to the increased activity in Asia, Anderson said that “since 2012, a lot of Chinese companies have been coming out of their shells, wanting to export more. At the same time, SPIE’s assessment procedure has been improved.”


The data reveals much about recent business trends with photonics companies. Since 2012, most companies added had annual sales of less than $50 million. About three-quarters of firms are still small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with under $10 million of annual business.

However, the majority of the revenues are still generated from the minority of companies. “Just 63 companies from the 3194 in the 2014 sample account for 70% of the total business,” Anderson said. That compares with 2384 companies with only 4% of total sales.

The latest SPIE survey also found that in the last two years, the industry’s job distribution is more even across the companies than is the distribution of revenues. Anderson commented, “We still clearly have the bias towards larger companies in terms of employment. But in 2014 the picture is a little more spread out.

One measure of companies’ operating efficiency and performance is the sales ratio, measurable in dollars per employee. In the new analysis, the average yield per employee was down from $230,000 (2012) to $211,000. “This is accounted for by the addition of many new Asian companies to the database,” he said, “although, in the US, the 2014 performance figure is around $260,000 per employee.”

Two countries share 73% of revenue

73% of global sales are in the US and Japan combined (~80% in 2012).

Anderson highlighted another interesting element from the latest analysis. “If you look at the company count by country, the top five host countries are ranked: US, China, Germany, Japan, and France, as we expected,” he said.

“But if you look at the where the revenues are coming from, you will see a very different picture. Almost half of the total revenues come from Japan. And if you look at Japan and the US together, then you are looking at 73% of total global revenues, which is actually down from their 80% joint total in 2012.”

Anderson provides updates on the SPIE market analysis at many SPIE events throughout the year.

To request slides from the latest SPIE update, email innovation@spie.org.

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