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Empowering Photonics through Regional Innovation Strategies in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EPRISE (Empowering Photonics through Regional Innovation Strategies in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-06-30

Companies developing photonics-based products for the Medical Technology, Pharmaceutical, Agriculture and Food markets face specific Go-to Market challenges, such as long timescales to market adoption and complex regulatory frameworks. They need market specific advice from experts on business-related topics as well as support from public funding to move from the innovation ready phase (Technology Readiness Level - TRL = 4, technology validated in lab) into the investment ready phase (TRL = 7, system prototype demonstration). Moreover, photonics SMEs should benefit from networking with European peers, system integrators and end-users.

European regions can support their companies via the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) through the policy process of Smart Specialisation. Twelve European regions have identified photonics as one of the priorities in their Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3). However, there is still room to enhance the funding synergies between Horizon 2020 and ESIFs, and the coordination of regional and EU photonics strategies.

Photonics clusters can play an important role when dealing with these challenges thanks to their connections with local policy makers and experience in supporting companies and creating networking opportunities. Thus, eight photonics clusters and one technology innovation centre from eight European countries (France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland, and the UK) delivered the EPRISE project in the period from January 2017 to June 2019.

The overall objective of the project was to promote and support photonics as a Key Enabling Technology (KET) with a focus on applications in the Medical Technology, Pharmaceutical, Agriculture, and Food markets where Europe holds a leading position. More specifically, the EPRISE consortium:

• Organised the “European Photonics Roadshow” - 7 European events to assist photonics SMEs in entering these markets via expert advice and to boost collaboration along the value chain;
• Mapped regional ecosystems in partner countries to highlight to regional authorities the potential of photonics in relation to their RIS3;
• Supported and contributed to collaboration and co-funding scenarios to encourage a combined effort of European and regionally-managed resources.

In conclusion, the project created sustainable and exploitable tools (a database of photonics actors, a database of experts) and market specific information (a booklet, presentations and videos from the Roadshow series) for reinforcement of the photonics sector and improvement of the coordination of photonics strategies and resources within Europe. They have been disseminated towards different target groups: photonics companies, regional authorities, integrators and end-users of photonics technologies.
Mapping activities of 89 European regions resulted in a database including 1398 companies, 315 research institutes/universities, and 149 clusters/networks. It is available on the project website (https://eprise.eu/photonic-companies/). RIS3s in relation to photonics and target markets were analysed as well (32 regions). Presentation material showcasing the photonics sector of 12 selected regions that have not yet identified photonics as a priority in their RIS3 was prepared. This material was used to highlight the potential of the photonics sector for the local economy to regional authorities, so that they could implement new measures to exploit this potential. Collaboration and co-funding opportunities have been identified: Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) initiative and Horizon 2020 call for proposals DT-ICT-04-2020 Photonics Innovation Hubs (PIH). Partners organised meetings and working groups between key actors (regional authorities, technology centres, clusters) to structure PIH activity, build up consortia and consider regional co-funding.

A survey of the Go-to-Market challenges faced by 91 European photonics companies seeking to enter the four target markets was carried out. In parallel, a database of experts was set-up to map market specific expertise matching the identified needs. The database contains 88 experts and is available on the EPRISE website (https://eprise.eu/experts/). By analysing the needs and exploiting the databases, partners have been able to provide their members with new and improved services.

Roadshow events in Florence, Stockholm, Berlin, Marseille, Amsterdam, Newcastle, Barcelona provided photonics SMEs with the opportunity to meet potential partners and customers (integrators, end users) and to obtain tailored solutions from experts. Presentations from experts can be downloaded on the project website, or viewed on a dedicated YouTube channel, along with a Go-to-Market guidance booklet. The latter is a compilation of best practices, lessons learnt, takeaways, tips, and case studies issued from the Roadshow.

Communication tools were created to disseminate these outcomes towards the target groups and to ensure their exploitation and sustainability after the end of the project (websites https://eprise.eu/ https://photonicsroadshow.eu/ Twitter account @EPRISE_EU). Partners will carry on exploiting the outcomes by developing new services, enlarging their network of contacts, organising further events and driving funding bodies in favour of the photonics industry. The outcomes will also benefit the wider photonics community.
The socio-economic impact of the project on each target group is summarised below.

Photonics SMEs had the opportunity to increase their business skills through tailored advice from experts during the Roadshow events. Examples include: the support to an Italian SME by an in-house expert of the UK EPRISE partner for certification of its medical device; the access to regional funding and involvement in a H2020 Innosup project of a French SME for diversification from the MedTech into the Food market.

Informed guidance (via presentation material, events) to regional authorities resulted in further prioritisation of photonics in regional strategies and funding support for photonics industry. Examples are the inclusion of photonics in the revised Stockholm region’s RIS3 and the investment of the North East of England region in a new healthcare photonics centre. The involvement of regions in meetings or working groups on the DT-ICT-04-2020 call may result in co-funding initiatives via the allocation of ESIFs.

Participation of integrators and end users in Roadshow events fostered collaboration along the whole value chain at regional and European level. Examples are: a European consortium for a H2020 call on plant health including one university, two RTOs, one SME, one end-user; a pilot project in Agriculture involving technology providers, research institutes and farmers from four European regions.

Promoting photonics as a KET, encouraging co-investment in the photonics sector, facilitating access to target markets for SMEs, and boosting collaboration along the whole value chain may have wider societal implications. In the coming years, European photonics sector is expected to grow rapidly within the target markets given its potential for addressing societal challenges such as a growing and ageing population, climate change, and food contamination. Innovative photonics SMEs can play a key role in this process and collaboration between stakeholders over the whole value chain is essential.
Photonics actors database webpage on the EPRISE website
Printed copies of the Go-to-Market guidance booklet
EPRISE logo
European Photonics Roadshow YouTube channel
B2B meetings at the event in Barcelona
Experts database webpage on the EPRISE website
Company pitching to an expert panel at the event in Newcastle