Photonics – the hidden industry worth £12.9bn

By Sophie Chapman
The photonics manufacturing industry contributes £12.9bn (US$17.4bn) annually to the UK’s economy. The sector – which works with generating, detec...

The photonics manufacturing industry contributes £12.9bn (US$17.4bn) annually to the UK’s economy.

The sector – which works with generating, detecting, and manipulating light – produces a huge range of everyday items.

Optical fibres used for the internet, LED lighting, lasers, ad illuminated displays all fall under photonic manufacturing.

Despite how important the industry is, according to a report released by Knowledge Transfer Network it is largely hidden.

The report, titled “UK Photonics: The Hidden Economic Engine”, argues that it is the seamless functionality of photonic products that allows it to remain unacknowledged.

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In the UK, the sector employees more than 65,000 people, with each employee on average generating £62,000 ($83,677) gross value added (GVA) per annum to the economy.

Germany is Europe’s largest photonics manufacturing market, which contributes to 40% of the continent’s €69bn (£60bn) output.

75% of all photonics manufacturing in the UK is exporting, demonstrating the nation’s global role in the industry.

The report argues that photonics will play a vital role in the UK achieving the four Grand Challeges highlighted in the Industrial Strategy, as the sector can enable artificial intelligence (AI)and a data-driven economy.

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