National Agenda Photonics new impulse for Dutch industry

Key technology as a solution to societal challenges • 13 Jul 2018

The Netherlands has a strong international position in the application of photonics. This innovative lighting technology contributes to the solutions for societal challenges in the ICT, manufacturing, semicon, health, agri-food, environment & energy sectors. To accelerate the opportunities of photonics technologies, the National Photonics Agenda is published today. The agenda describes how the Netherlands can further strengthen its leading global position in the coming years, an ambition that is seamlessly aligned with the innovation and top sector policy.

Do you want to know more about the National Agenda Photonics?

Go to the National Agenda Photonics website (in Dutch)


On 13 July Benno Oderkerk, chairman of PhotonicsNL in The Hague, presented the National Agenda Photonics to Mona Keijzer, State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. This photonics agenda has been drawn up partly at the request of the Ministry by PhotonicsNL, Dutch Optics Centre of TNO and TU Delft together with PhotonDelta. The plan for PhotonDelta, the public-private investment and research programme in the field of photonics was also presented along with the agenda. René Penning de Vries did this on behalf of the provinces of Noord-Brabant, Overijssel and Gelderland.

State Secretary Keijzer (Economic Affairs and Climate Policy): “Photonics is faster and more energy efficient than traditional electronics. That is why this is an important key technology in our top sector policy. Photonics is going to help us solve societal challenges. For example, because this technology enables us to make better diagnoses in the healthcare sector and to map out our subsurface in more detail. Dutch entrepreneurs are already at the forefront of this, with almost 300 companies using this technology today. By targeting photonics, we are targeting the future.”

Key technology

Photonics is the technology that focuses on generating, transporting and detecting light waves and light particles (photons). It is already used in a wide range of products and processes in which light plays an important role. Think of ever-improving cameras in mobile phones, sustainable lighting and fast fibre-optic internet connections. Photonic solutions are a response to the growing need for fast, reliable communication and industry digitisation. It is used for imaging, spectroscopy and metrology. But the application also extends to food production, home comfort and health technology, thus making an important contribution to solving societal challenges. A new development concerns miniaturisation and integration in chips, the so-called integrated photonics. Europe has indicated its willingness to invest heavily in photonics as a key enabling technology. Not only to achieve European industrial leadership and economic growth, but also to stimulate high-quality, long-term employment.

Market oriented clusters

The global growth of the photonics industry is estimated to be 40% over the next five years. Technology plays a major role in the success of the Dutch high-tech industry and is a driving force for maintaining the competitiveness of our economy. Nearly 300 Dutch companies, many of which are SMEs, work directly on the development and application of photonics products. Estimated total revenues are more than four billion euros. Investment initiatives are expected to reach an annual total of 60 million euros in the Netherlands, a figure that will be financed partly by the public and partly by the private sector. This is to strengthen the hundreds of millions already invested by the market in photonics.

Arnold Stokking, Director of TNO Industry: “It is very important for the Netherlands that we invest heavily in this new technology. For successful positioning in the European and global market, the Netherlands must present itself as a single coherent photonics region. The Dutch Optics Centre, the expertise centre for high-tech optics and optomechatronics of TNO and TU Delft, supports the application areas with key technologies such as imaging, spectroscopy and metrology. It is good news that PhotonDelta, which is active in the new field of integrated photonics, is being given the means to develop further. Our ambition requires a single agenda and a framework for the photonics initiatives in the Netherlands. This agenda is therefore an invitation to companies, knowledge institutes and government to participate in the acceleration of photonics.”

Current applications

The current rapid development of a wide range of new photonic technologies offers opportunities for the Netherlands:

  • More powerful light sources and other wavelengths
    For example, VCSELs for fibre-optic telecommunications and Extreme UV (EUV) sources for more accurate chip measurement and fabrication.
  • New forms for optical components and optics on a chip
    For example, new forms of mirrors, lenses and chips such as freeform optics, micro-optics, adaptive optics and integrated photonics.
  • Manufacturing technologies for ultra-compact optical systems in large series
    For example, improved manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, injection moulding, diamond turning and robot polishing.
  • New synthetic materials
    For example, semiconductors, glass types, metamaterials, photonic crystals, nanostructures, quantum dots, and new biological materials.
  • Smaller, more energy-efficient sensors
    Photonic structures, often integrated into fibres or optical circuits, are used, for example, for measuring displacement, voltage or acoustic waves and for 3D imaging systems for autonomous vehicles.
  • New technology with the combination of photonics and software
    For example, further development and application of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Computational Imaging (CI). Computational Imaging, also referred to as 'lens-less imaging', uses computer algorithms to improve the performance of an imaging system while the lens retains the same specifications.


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