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Boosting Europe’s Sovereignty in Technology by driving Photonics from Research to Market – Photonics21

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BestPhorm21 (Boosting Europe’s Sovereignty in Technology by driving Photonics from Research to Market – Photonics21)

Reporting period: 2022-07-01 to 2023-12-31

BestPhorm21 provides the support to the Horizon Europe Photonics Partnership in developing and implementing the European Photonics Strategy. It addresses the very heart of the Horizon Europe Photonics Partnership, since it provides the strategic support to the photonics community to develop and implement the European industrial strategy. In the subsequent BestPhorm21 respectively the Photonics21 secretariat teams up with 14 National Technology Platforms (NTP). These NTPs have been established to mirror the Photonics21 activities in the member states and to provide the strategic link to national and regional policy makers – more than 25 regional photonics clusters are involved.

To this end the BestPhorm21 Coordination and Support Action pursues following four main objectives:

1. Secure European world leadership and technological sovereignty in photonics
2. Digitize European end-user industries with photonics
3. Push regional, national and European photonics networks and public investment strategies
4. Improve access to growth financing for Photonics start-ups and SMEs to scale up
Publication of the new Photonics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda alongside the Photonics Partnership Annual Meeting 2023.
With over 200 high-ranking representatives from industry, science, and politics the Photonics Partnership Annual Meeting 2023 took place on 26 & 27 April 2023 in Brussels. As main highlight of the event the Photonics21 Executive Board handed over the new Photonics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) New Horizons – Securing Europe’s strategic autonomy through Photonics to the European Commission. The Photonics SRIA was worked out by more than 1,000 photonics experts from over 30 countries in several workshop sessions and outlines a path towards strategic autonomy as well as an overview on the future photonics research and innovation areas to be covered by future Photonics Partnership funding activities.

R&I priorities 2023 / 2024, 2025 and 2026/27.
Based on the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda from the predecessor project, BestPhorm21 coordinated the community-based development of call priorities for the Horizon Europe work programme 2023-2024, involving over 1,000 experts. At the Photonics Europe Partnership Annual Meeting 2023, the new Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda, focusing on 2023-2030, was presented to the European Commission, marking the beginning of the community process for photonics call priorities in the Horizon Europe work programmes 2025 and 2026-2027. Over 1,000 experts contributed to several workshops, providing their valuable input. BestPhorm21 provided input to the Orientation Paper and submitted multiple proposals for photonics call topics to the European Commission for the upcoming work programmes.

In-depth analysis of the European and global photonics market - Photonics Market study.
In the second project reporting period BestPhorm21 conducted a photonics market study to provide an in-depth analysis of the European and global photonics market and the related macroeconomic impact. On a global level, Europe maintains its number 2 position together with the US. The European photonics industry has grown from 103 billion € in 2019 to 124,6 billion € in 2022. With a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6,5 % this clearly exceeds the growth of EU GDP. The photonics industry keeps growing across whole Europe and currently employs about 430 000 people.

Supply Chain Survey.
In cooperation with EPIC, Photonics21 conducted a survey among European Photonics companies in Autumn 2022, which revealed the ongoing vulnerability of the European Photonics supply chain to sudden supply chain shocks arising from geopolitical factors. More specifically, the survey results highlighted 53% of companies stating a dependency on key sources of goods from China. BestPhorm21 coordinated the study, including the design of the questionnaire as well as the analysis of the answers. The results of this survey lead to further discussions on relevant value chains for the European photonics industry and, specifically, to the identification of those 4 strategic value chains to be looked at in-depth in the second part of the BestPhorm21-project.

Media Activities.
During the second half of BestPhorm21, numerous media activities have been carried out to secure European world leadership and technological sovereignty in photonics. In total, 27 stories have been created to serve this end. This is 9 stories more than expected. To reach the different target groups (European Commission, policy makers, general public, photonics scientist), a variety of stories have been created. These range from impact stories about Photonics Partnership projects, over interviews with European photonics experts, communication about thematic and economic reports and surveys, as well as communication campaigns that position photonics as a solution provider for strategic and political challenges like the European Green Deal.

More than 400 photonics start-ups in Europe identified - first comprehensive database on photonics start-ups in Europe created.
Bestphorm21 has compiled the first comprehensive database of photonics start-ups in Europe, identifying 438 companies spread across the continent. Germany leads with 43 start-ups, followed closely by Austria, France, Italy, and Sweden. Other countries like Poland, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, Finland, Spain, and Greece also have significant representation. The database reveals that the primary markets targeted by these start-ups are Health (24%), Core Photonics (22%), and Manufacturing (17%), with these sectors accounting for 63% of the total start-ups. Conversely, there is limited focus on markets like Space or Defence. This database provides valuable insights into the European photonics start-up landscape and market trends.
Current photonics industrial strategies are focussing on technologies needed for current markets whereas successful strategies for the future should forecast the growth potential of new markets. In order to drive the industrial revolution instead of reacting to it, the European photonics community, companies and research organisations alike, need to change the way strategies are developed and implemented. This requires even closer cooperation with end-user industries and new disciplines like man-machine-interaction or cybersecurity to jointly develop integrated end-to-end solutions and new value chains. In this respect, leaving the current comfort zone is a substantial requirement rather than an option for the European photonics industry to withstand the ever-growing competition from Asia attacking more and more markets traditionally dominated by European industry.
Photonics21_AnnualMeeting_2023_SRIA Handover