Scotland National Strategy for Economic Transformation: industry leadership groups and sector groups - evidence

This paper provides summary evidence received from Scotland's industry leadership groups and other economic sector groups as part of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation engagement process.

16. Photonics Scotland, a network of Technology Scotland

Industry Aspirations to 2030

The sector aims to reach £3 billion turnover by 2030, up from £1 billion in 2018 and £1.2 billion in 2020.

Industry Opportunities

The industry has identified the following significant opportunities:

  • The global photonics market has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7% since 2015, and is set to hit £800 billion by 2025, catalysed by accelerated global demand for photonics products;
  • Scotland is very strong on photonics exports, with companies engaging in international markets from a very early stage. It is well positioned to exploit a rapidly growing global market, provided it is supported to do so;
  • Scotland’s photonics sector contains a significant number of young, innovative companies with high potential for growth. The sector is also supported by a number of multi-national ‘anchor’ companies, a world-leading academic base and a number of supporting organisations; and,
  • There has been significant growth in Scottish photonic companies active in space and quantum technology applications, with over 50% of companies now active in these growth areas.

Industry Challenges

Key challenges faced by the photonic sector are:

  • access to skills. This remains the biggest impediment to the growth of the sector. There must be an increased focus on upskilling the existing workforce and accelerating entry of new talent from adjacent sectors and the education pipeline.
  • market access. 97% of Scottish photonics output is exported outwith Scotland with 79% beyond the rest of the UK. Scotland’s future export strategies and internationalisation efforts must recognise and support this buoyant sector.
  • improving the integration of photonics technologies into domestic supply chains. Photonics technologies are supporting innovation in a number of vertical sectors (health, manufacturing, space, and defence) and these sectors must be supported to access, develop and adopt leading edge technologies.

Ongoing and Planned Activity for Industry

Technology Scotland has been working with the Manufacturing Skills Academy at NMIS to develop an industry-led optical skills programme that will accelerate new entrants to the photonics sector and that upskills existing talent. In September 2021, it launched the “Opening up Photonics Initiative” (in partnership with the University of Glasgow, Institute of Physics and Knowledge Transport Network), which aims to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce within Scotland’s photonics sector.



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