Our History

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 billion in turnover per annum and employs 3,500 people in high value added jobs. 50% 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.

History: 125 years of Photonics in Scotland

In the late 19th century, the Glasgow based company Barr and Stroud was a true pioneer in optical engineering, playing a leading role in the development of modern optics. Throughout the 20th century, this expertise influenced Scotland’s prestigious universities to produce highly skilled photonics engineers and scientists, providing the foundation for a new generation of photonics businesses.

Vision: The Future of Scotland’s Photonics Sector

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.

In April 2019, the SOA celebrated its landmark 25th anniversary, hosting the first ever Scottish Photonics Week, welcoming the EPIC and IOA AGMs to Scotland and rebranding to Photonics Scotland.

We warmly invite you to join our community!