The EPRISE project, “Empowering Photonics through Regional Innovation Strategies in Europe”, brings together nine leading photonics innovation clusters and national photonics platforms around Europe with the aim of supporting companies who use photonics to enter into four Life Science market sectors where Europe holds a leading position, namely, Medical Technologies, Pharmaceuticals, Agriculture and Food.

The regional focus of this project is particularly interesting and unique. Photonics is one the six Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) selected by the European Commission in 2009 and therefore one of the main topics to be considered by the regions when developing their Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3).

As a technology, Photonics deals with the generation, detection and manipulation of light and is usually intertwined with electronics. Although photonics underpins the modern smart phone, a device which most people now own and use every day, the term photonics itself is still not in very widespread public use and is largely misunderstood. This is probably one important reason why only 11 European regions have explicitly prioritised photonics in their RIS3.

The EPRISE project aims to reverse this situation by engaging with the regions in Europe and highlighting the potential of the Photonics sector to end users. Regional authorities will be presented with facts about the economic benefits and high societal impact of Photonics as a key enabling technology in their region and with concrete funding scenarios to promote inter-regional cooperation.

Europe’s photonics industry is facing global market competition and has to cope with a very high speed of technological developments in the field. While scientists and researchers have made great strides in advancing the application of photonics in these market sectors, there is still plenty of work to be done. Companies developing photonics-based products for these markets face highly specific Go2Market challenges such as long time to market adoption, complex regulatory frameworks and high barriers to market entry. The EPRISE consortium will organise a series of European photonics workshops, the European Photonics Roadshow, from 2018 onwards with the aim of providing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with solutions on how to overcome the market entry barriers.

The project coordinator, Cecilia Pinto from photonics innovation cluster Optitec in France commented – “We are delighted to be able to announce the start of this new support programme in Photonics which will see a Europe-wide cooperation between regional photonics clusters, National photonics networks and regional authorities to help companies, particularly SMEs, to accelerate the commercialization of new photonics products in the Life Sciences markets. Such a joined-up approach will surely benefit consumers, patients, providers and manufacturers together.”

The EPRISE project is a 30-month coordination and support action of Horizon 2020 part of the Photonics Private Public Partnership. A kick-off event took place on February 9 in Brussels and attracted more than 50 participants, among others Mr Philippe Vannson, the new Head of European Commission’s Photonics Unit, , Mr Richard Tuffs, the Director of ERRIN, Mr Carlos Lee, General Director of European Photonics Industry Consortium and more than 25 regional representatives.