In a stark warning, the Nobel Prize Winners say cutting investment in photonics – which is essential for powering high critical sectors like health, aerospace and transport – will be disastrous for Europe’s technological goals.
In an open letter to the European Commission, the Nobel laureates have heavily criticised the decision to make a 30% reduction in funding support by European Commission for a future Photonics Partnership 2021-2027 in Horizon Europe, the successor to the current Horizon 2020 programme.
The letter – addressed to Vice-President Commissioner Vestager, Commissioner Breton, Commissioner Gabriel and the College of European Commissioners – says the cuts will seriously compromise initiatives that are strategically important to ensure Europe’s competitiveness.
Without adequate funding, the Laureates who include Professor Gérard Albert Mourou, Professor Stefan W. Hell, and Professor Theodor W. Hänsch– all Nobel Prize winners for their work in the field of Photonics sciences – warn the four overarching European Union objectives will be seriously scuppered.
“There can be no Europe fit for a Digital Age, no full digital sovereignty and no ultra-secure sovereign quantum computing enabled cybersecurity without photonics technologies” say the Nobel Prize winners in Physics and Chemistry.
Photonics technologies are recognised as essential to support and advance four over-arching European Union objectives: the digital transformation of Europe industry; achieving the European Green deal and a sustainable EU future; the establishment of a future sovereign and resilient European digital infrastructure and, strengthening strategic value chains across key sectors.
Condemning the move as ‘not consistent with the planned support for other key digital partnerships’, the Nobel Laureates highlight the proposed figure would represent only 35% of the Photonics industry requested budget for 2021-2027.
The current figure proposed by the Commission for a new Photonics PPP is in the range of €500 million. If confirmed, this represents a cut of over 30% on the already previous minimal budget of €700 million 2014-2020.
While the current Photonics PPP was funded to the sum of €700 million over seven years –already one of the smallest budgets for a key digital technology PPP over the period 2014-2020 – the allocated budget for the Microelectronics PPP was €2.5 billion over the same period.
The recent European Commission industry strategy “A New Industrial Strategy for Europe” clearly recognized Photonics technologies as a key enabling technology for the digital transformation of European industry stating, “The EU will support the development of key enabling technologies that are strategically important for Europe’s industrial future…including Photonics“.
The European Investment Bank in a separate communication identified Photonics as one of the two key digital deep technologies that will provide the secure, sovereign and resilient digital infrastructure necessary for Europe.
Equally, Photonics is now considered as one of the "digital technologies critical for attaining the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal”; through revolutionizing energy generation and energy conservation, along with distance monitoring the effects of both, on the environment and climate.
The signatories are:
- Professor Gérard Albert Mourou, a Physics Nobel Prize winner for the invention of ‘chirped pulse amplification’ a technique used to create ultrashort-pulse, very high-intensity petawatt laser pulses.
- Professor Stefan W. Hell who developed a method in which one light pulse causes fluorescent molecules to glow, while another causes all molecules except those in a very narrow area to become dark.
- Professor Theodor W. Hänsch, whose work on the ‘optical frequency comb’ technique won him, along with John L. Hall and Roy J. Glauber, a joint Nobel Prize.
Photonics21 is the European Technology Platform (ETP) for photonics, a technology encompassing all of the products and processes around the emission, manipulation and detection of light. Photonics is integral to a wide range of industries that include the medical, healthcare, transport, manufacturing, and telecommunications sectors.
"Photonics21" was set up in December 2005 to bring the community of photonics researchers and industries together. The European Commission defined photonics as one of five European Key Enabling Technologies (KET’s) in September 2009. Shortly after, the European Research & Innovation Program "Horizon 2020" invited Photonics21 to become a "Public-Private Partnership" (PPP). The "Photonics 21 Association", a legal entity under Belgium law, became the private contract partner in November 2013 in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in conjunction with the EU Commission.
Today Photonics21 represents more than 3000 personal members from across Europe and abroad. Our members are experts in the photonics industry, research organisations and universities who actively engage with us to develop a joint photonics strategy for future research and innovation in Europe.
With the global photonics market growing from €350 Billion in 2011 to €447 Billion in 2015, Photonics remains a strong industry. The European photonics industry, estimated to be worth €70 billion, has considerable global leadership positions and employs over 300,000 people directly.
With positive growth forecast, current industry trends like digitalisation, resource efficiency, individual and zero failure production will drive the photonics industry further.
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