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Lighting a path towards SME innovation opportunities

The EU-funded ACTPHAST project has set up a centre of expertise to provide European SMEs with advice and technical assistance in the cutting edge field of photonics.

Through combining the technological know-how of 23 leading European photonics research institutes – and making this expertise available to interested European companies – the ACTPHAST project aims to kick start new product development, speed up the time it takes to get products to market and create new jobs. The four year project, launched in November 2013, has brought these research institutes together to form a unique one-stop-shop which is particularly geared towards assisting rapid innovation projects run by SMEs, lasting typically six to nine months. Photonics is about the generation, emission and the detection of light, and the technology is used in everyday objects such as barcode scanners, printers, DVD devices and microwaves. Photonics is also crucial for telecommunications, health applications and robotics, with new applications emerging all the time. ACTPHAST aims to ensure that innovative European SMEs do not miss out on these new market opportunities, simply because of their size or lack of expertise in a particular sector. The programme is open to every country and company in Europe, and has a dedicated outreach team working with local industry and innovation clusters in order to raise awareness. In its first 15 months, ACTPHAST has granted approval for 29 innovative photonic projects – the majority of which are run by SMEs – from ten different European Member States. This first set of approved projects includes a number of exciting new applications that target high growth markets such as medical and life sciences, automotive and energy, where photonics is increasingly recognised as a key enabling technology. Other photonics-based projects that have taken advantage of ACTPHAST have involved the development of a novel fibre with an ultra-high performance hermetic barrier for use in harsh environments and a machine vision-based inspection system for pharmaceutical bottle quality control. These projects have been able to utilise the full range of technology platforms and expertise offered by ACTPHAST, from modelling and design through to prototyping, integration and testing. Many of these projects involve multidisciplinary teams. With the first set of approved innovation projects now underway ACTPHAST continues to receive and process up to 20 new project requests every month from companies across Europe. The team is currently assessing project requests from companies in Austria, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Switzerland. Over half of these companies are classed as ‘photonics-enabled’ in that their core expertise is not in the photonics but where innovation with photonics components can add significant value to their end products. By the end of 2017, ACTPHAST aims to have supported a total of up to 200 photonics innovation projects by European companies, leading to the generation of EUR 120 million in additional revenues for companies, and the creation of 600 new high value jobs in Europe. For further information please visit: ACTPHAST



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