The ecosystem in Brainport around photonics is developing rapidly, thanks to a close collaboration between Technical University Eindhoven, High Tech Campus Eindhoven and various governments. The project Photon Delta is supposed to generate new businesses, to strengthen the existing infrastructure and to further build the image of Brainport as a world leader in integrated photonics. Photonics is based on the interaction of light (photons) and electrons (electronics) and has numerous applications for computers, lasers, LEDs, solar cells and optical chips. According to experts, photonics will unleash the same economic revolution on a world scale as electronics a few decades earlier.
The research section, based on the TU/e campus, already includes about 300 scientists. Backx: "My estimate is that there will be jobs for at least 300 more scientists and developers within five years. As for companies, it is still mainly to startups and spinoffs, companies with relatively few employees. But we will develop products that are not there yet. We will create a new market with enormous potential. Studies show that the current world market for photonics in full width is 600 billion euros. That market will grow strongly in 2025 and pass the 3,000 billion. The market for integrated photonics, the trump card of the Brainport region, will be as big as 50 billion euros in 2020 and will then also grow strongly."
That amount will obviously not end up completely in Brainport. "We have a knowledge advantage so it will be decisive how smart we handle it. The whole world recognizes the potential that lies in photonics. For that reason, President Obama last year mobilized 120 million dollars to catch up with Europe. The US industry has increased that budget by an additional $500 million. They explicitly referred to Brainport as their competition. Yet we still have the chance to show our region to the world as the source of knowledge in the field of integrated photonics. But then we have to move quickly. With the Photonics Institute, we want to make it happen."
Currently in Brainport the relationship between research and industry in the field of photonics is around 70-30. In about four years this must be reversed. With a combination of research institutes at world level, a strong design field, a high-tech manufacturing industry, production and infrastructure facilities, a multi billion dollar market for integrated photonics is available for Brainport. A strong collaboration between businesses and educational institutions is required to create internships, appropriate educational programmes and ultimately adequately trained staff. Backx is convinced the region will succeed. "TU/e attracts significantly more students in this field than a few years ago. In the academic year 2007/2008 we were just under 7,000 students, now the student population is around 10,000. The Faculty of Electrical Engineering, with extensive knowledge of photonics,formerly had 60 entrants per year. Now there are 300. So automatically we see more students specializing in photonics."