Photonics is increasingly popping up in digital products as well as other high-tech applications. Examples include optical sensors that monitor the quality of food, air and water, as well as lasers that allow nanoscale manipulation and the design of more efficient solar cells for photovoltaic panels. The potential is vast, that much is certain. It should therefore come as no surprise that the European Commission seeks to stimulate the development of photonics applications by awarding EUR 19 million to PhotonHub Europe, a coalition of 53 European research institutes and industrial labs active in photonics technology.
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PhotonHub Europe to light up photonics through Flanders
The driving and coordinating force behind PhotonHub Europe is the photonics lab B-PHOT of Hugo Thienpont, professor at VUB. The university will be the ‘front office’ for European firms that plan to work with or on light-based tech. PhotonHub will help them support their ambitions – by offering training courses and testing equipment –and find new investors. The choice for VUB as coordinator is an obvious one, as the university is a major reference in Flanders’ leading photonics innovation ecosystem.
“Photonics is essential for the functioning of new applications that drive the Industry 4.0 wave as well as those crucial to addressing the enormous global societal and environmental challenges of our time,” comments prof. Thienpont, who will be general coordinator of PhotonHub Europe.
Besides VUB, various other knowledge institutes in Flanders are part of PhotonHub Europe as well, including the university of Ghent (UGent) and strategic research centers imec (nano- and digital tech) and Flanders Make (advanced manufacturing).
“PhotonHub Europe aims to intensively support European SMEs and large enterprises in introducing photonics-based technologies in a faster and smart way. The goal is to help transform them into strong and decisive digital companies. This has the potential to directly create over 1,000 new high-tech jobs in the EU by 2025 and generate EUR 1 billion in new revenues and venture capital,” VUB states in a press release.
“The innovation hub will be launched on 1 January 2021 and aims to create a significant impact on the European economy,” the press release goes on. “During the first 4 years, we foresee transfers of expertise involving around 8,000 companies, 90% of which will be SMEs. In addition, 6,000 technicians from across Europe will receive practical photonics training at PhotonHub’s technical facilities. Meanwhile, 280 companies will benefit from investor matchmaking and over 250 companies will receive cross-border innovation support subsidized by the European Commission.”