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Spain: Counting on Growth in Photonics

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2009
Kimberley Clark, Ireland Correspondent,

iStock_000001810926Medium.jpgAlthough Spain hosts few large photonics companies, it is home to many smaller – and growing – ones. Best of all, the Spanish government actively supports the development of photonics in the belief that it will grow into a key industrial sector.

This strategy has been supported by the creation of the Spanish Photonics Technology Platform (Fotónica21), a mirror of the European Technology Platform (Photonics21). The group is active in information and communications, industrial manufacturing and quality, life sciences and health care, lighting and displays, and security and energy.

Photonics in Spain is further supported by ERANET+ and by the Singular Project, a €3 million enterprise funded by the Ministerio de Industria, Turismo y Comercio. Its participants hope to further develop the Spanish Photonics Strategic Agenda in the areas of silicon photonics, photonic sensors and security. The aim is to develop photonic nanobiosensors for medical diagnosis, industrial process control and water quality measurement.

World-class capabilities

Research groups are active throughout Spain. Teams in Madrid and Valencia offer world-class capabilities in silicon photonics, while in Salamanca, the launch of a new laser center specializing in ultra-intense lasers and their industrial applications has been announced.

Spain has two optics institutes, Instituto de Optica of the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) in Madrid and Institut de Ciències Fotòniques (ICFO) in Barcelona.

ICFO is a young, fast-growing research institution that works to advance the limits of scientific and technological knowledge in such areas as quantum optics, nanophotonics and biophotonics.

Professor Gonçal Badenes, head of the Nanophotonic Devices Group at ICFO, says the group also is active in applied research, with an eye toward commercialization. “We are particularly active in patenting different types of optical sensors and nanophotonics devices. Our patent portfolio includes innovations in microscopy, plasmonics and sensors for hostile environments.”

The number of photonics companies based in Spain is growing, especially spinoffs and medium-size enterprises.

On-Laser Systems & Applications is a recently launched start-up that specializes in commercializing new laser technology for niche applications, while an example of a medium-size company is Monocrom SL, a manufacturer of custom laser systems. There also are large corporations such as Isofotón, a leading international company in the solar sector.

International companies that have opened offices in Spain include the French firm Imagine Optics, a leading world supplier of Shack-Hartmann wavefront technology.

Another Spanish firm recently in the headlines is Aragon Photonics Labs SLU of Zaragoza. The company received a Prism Award for Photonics Innovation on Jan. 28 at SPIE Photonics West 2009 for its BOSA-C, a compact high-resolution optical spectrum analyzer. Sponsors of the awards are Laurin Publishing and SPIE.

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