Photonics in Scotland

Scotland’s photonics industry is a major contributor to the UK economy. Renowned as one of the world’s leading centres for photonics, the sector enjoys over £1.2 billion in turnover per anum and employs 5,100 people in high value added jobs. 85% of the sector’s output is exported, with the rest supporting important domestic sectors including aerospace and defence, oil and gas, renewable energy, manufacturing and communications.

But this kind of status doesn’t just develop overnight. Scotland has a unique history and strength in photonics that goes back over a century, and which drives the pioneering work emerging today. Since 1994, the sector has also been supported by the Photonics Scotland (previously the Scottish Optoelectronics Association), one of the oldest national photonics organisations in the world and one of the largest technology communities in Scotland.

Scotland’s modern optical industry was created with the founding of Barr & Stroud in the late 19th century, and throughout the 20th century, Scotland’s prestigious universities became renowned for their ability to produce highly skilled optical and photonic engineers and scientists, providing the foundation for a new generation of photonics businesses.

This has created a cluster of innovative companies and internationally recognised academic centres that are developing and manufacturing cutting edge technologies and products which are exported the world over. Our flair for innovation and engineering endures, and Scotland continues to enjoy a leadership position in areas such as lasers, optical transceivers, Li-Fi and quantum technologies.

In the 21st century, photonics in Scotland continues to be at the cutting edge of innovation, with leadership in areas such as lasers, optical transceivers, Li-Fi and quantum technologies. With over 50 companies at its heart, supported by a globally recognised academic base and a powerful network of translational assets and RTOs, Scotland’s Photonics Sector is well-placed to continue address some of the world’s grand challenges, making its reach and influence truly global.

Read more about Photonics in Scotland and our plans for the future in our Vision paper.