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Strong Growth Predicted for European Photonics

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2008
Michael A. Greenwood

European photonics continues to perform well in several sectors of the market but controls only a small portion of some of the industry’s fastest-growing technologies, according to a market study prepared by Photonics21, an association of European photonics companies and research facilities.


Europe in 2005 had a large share of the world market for medical technology and life sciences, measurement and automated vision, and production technology. It had very little market share in the flat panel display and information technology sectors. Courtesy of Optech Consulting.

The study found that the European Union has a strong presence in sectors such as lighting, measurement and automated vision, and production technology, but that it is relatively weak in two of the fastest-growing sectors in photonics: information technology and flat panel displays. The displays have become primarily an Asian technology, according to the report.

European photonics grew 12 percent from 2005 to 2006, producing a revenue of €49 billion. The study also notes that 246,000 people in Europe, not including subcontractors, are employed in the photonics industry and that Europe has 19 percent of the overall worldwide photonics production volume (€228 billion).

The market study, “Photonics in Europe — Economic Impact,” was released in early December and includes a breakdown of European photonics by sector and an overview by country. It concludes that photonics has become a driving force for innovation in Europe and is crucial to future economic development. Most of the report’s information is from 2005, the most recent year for which statistics were available.

Germany accounts for 39 percent of Europe’s photonics production, followed by France and the UK (each with 12 percent), the Netherlands (10 percent), Italy (8 percent), Switzerland (~4 percent) and Spain (3 percent). Germany dominates several areas of production, including measurement and automated vision, medical technology and life sciences, lighting, solar energy, and optical components and systems. France, meanwhile, leads in optical communications and shares the lead with the UK in defense photonics, according to the study.

Sustained worldwide growth in a number of sectors is forecast over the period from 2005 to 2015. In particular, the markets for optical components and systems, optical communications and production technology, and solar energy all are anticipated to at least double during that period.

The study found that Europe currently has a 28 percent share of the world production of solar cells and a 37 percent share of the production of solar panels. Japan, meanwhile, has the largest share of the world’s solar cell supply market. On the demand side, Germany has the largest share, followed by Japan. The report concluded that, in each country, demand had been induced by government incentives.

automated visionBusinessCommunicationsConsumerdefenseenergyflat panel displayslight speedtechnologies

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