Photonics Ireland national platform offers bright future for growing sector

2 Sep 2015

IPIC's deputy director, Dr Peter O'Brien in the photonics packaging lab. Image via Tyndall Institute/IPIC

At the Photonics Ireland 2015 conference, policy makers and 230 photonics experts from industry and academia have agreed to form an Irish Photonics National Technology Platform (NTP), called Photonics Ireland.

The Photonics Ireland platform, coordinated by the SFI-funded Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC) and based in the Tyndall Institute, will aim to promote and focus the technology in its development, both on the technological aspect and from the point of view of creating photonics-based start-ups and SMEs.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of photonics, the science involves the generation, manipulation and utilisation of light and is used in everything from creating advanced medical devices to our smartphones.

By creating this platform now, Ireland, the IPIC said, can be ahead of the curve and establish the country as a world leader in a field with a ‘bright future’.

The organisation said the Photonics Ireland platform will focus on the areas of technology, incubation and training, bringing greater investment to photonic start-ups and SMEs as well as access to world-leading research and technology in addition to training and outreach activities.

It said it also hopes to create a means of engaging with similar national platforms across Europe and to assist Irish companies in developing partnerships with Europe’s leading photonics companies and universities.

Photonics Pete Townsend

Director of IPIC, Pete Townsend. Image via Tyndall Institute/IPIC

Time is right to move to the next stage

The announcement was made during the first day of this year’s Photonics Ireland 2015 conference held in University College Cork held by the IPIC to showcase the latest advancements made in the field.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Paul Townsend, chairperson of the Photonics Ireland Conference and director of IPIC, said: “There are over 300,000 people directly employed in the photonics industry in Europe and the global market is currently estimated to be €350bn – leading to huge potential for Ireland’s photonics research and industrial community.”

Speaking to prior to the announcement, he reiterated his stance on Ireland’s potential.

“Electronics was the last big wave of the last 30 years in Ireland,” Townsend said. “Photonics is now another key enabling technology that’s growing after electronics and Ireland is quietly been building up its strength over the last 20 years or so with investments by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and companies starting to come out of universities, so the time is right.

“The whole system has reached a level of maturity and now it’s time to take it on to the next stage.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic