The Netherlands are leading in photonics 

Twente makes a vital contribution to improving global health and safety  

Fiber optics, self-propelled vehicles and robots that perform an operation; the applications of photonics are getting increasingly closer to the consumer. Much of this unique knowledge and expertise comes from Twente. Our region does not only have the talented photonics specialists of the University of Twente and the Saxion University of Applied Sciences, but also the facilities and expertise for pioneering research. And due to our excellent entrepreneurial climate, photonics startups develop into successful companies with a worldwide impact. Twente plays a leading role in securing the leading position of the Netherlands in photonics.

On 14 June, during the international World Technology Mapping Forum on Photonics in Den Bosch, the provinces of Overijssel, Noord Brabant and Gelderland signed the Photonics declaration of intent. The signing contributes to the joint effort of companies and institutions in these provinces to respond to opportunities offered by the globally emerging photonics market. Read the press release of signing the declaration of intent of Photonics.

An introduction to photonics in Twente

The global market for photonics is developing quickly. It is expected to grow to 615 billion Euro by 2025; and growth will not stop there. The European Commission has identified photonics as a Key Enabling Technology (KET), making available substantial investments in research and development in the framework of the horizon2020 program. With public investments, including by the Province of Overijssel, education bodies and businesses, Twente is expediting its efforts to strengthen its unique position and to increase employment in the photonics industry. This is done in collaboration with knowledge institutions and high tech companies in the Twente region, as well as with many national partners. This collaboration ensures that the Netherlands stay at the forefront of development, production and application of integrated photonics.

Photonics in the Netherlands 

The photonics industry in the Netherlands covers the entire supply chain and includes: 
• The manufacturing of photonic components and systems 
• Applications for the end user 
• Production processes for manufacturing components 
• Machine building for front-end and back-end processing 
• Services 
• Development of new photonic technologies. 
Companies and knowledge institutions, from Noord Brabant and Overijssel in particular, have united in PhotonDelta, acting as a visible and identifiable partner for foreign governments, companies and institutions, and strengthening the knowledge position of the Netherlands in this field.

Twente is proud of its photonics 

Twente treasures photonics. With pioneering research conducted at institutes such as Mesa+ and market leaders such as Lionix International and DEMCON Focal, Twente is home to unique knowledge and expertise. And new talent is added continuously. The photonics programs at the University of Twente and the Saxion University of Applied Sciences deliver young photonics specialists who are giving a boost to new developments. In addition, Oost NV and Novel-T (organizations that promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the region) play a crucial role in the growth of the number of successful photonics businesses. For example, by funding feasibility studies for photonics solutions from the European ROCKET program. The solutions developed by entrepreneurs in Twente improve our health and safety: think for example of early detection of diseases, precision inspection of medical equipment, and needle-free injection. And new applications are added continually.

Pioneering photonics research 

Optics and photonics research is conducted in our region at the Mesa+ Nanolab, at the Fraunhofer Project Centre and at the Max Planck Centre. At the research facilities of the Mesa+ Nanolab and the High Tech Factory more than one hundred researchers are working in photonics. They research applications such as lab-on-a-chip diagnostics, 5G data communication, nano-photonic energy transfer, and nano-manufacturing technology. 
These research institutes are working closely with companies in our region, ranging from design to production. 

Successful startups and mature spinoffs

LioniX: developed leading platform 

One of the major front-runners in integrated photonic systems is LioniX International in Enschede. This combination of spinoff companies of the University of Twente has been developing photonic chips and applications since 2016. They developed one of the three leading media platforms for photonic chips in the world: TriPleX. They use this standard themselves to develop applications, but their platform is also used by many other researchers and companies. A good example of an application that is currently being researched is the possibility of earlier detection of heart failure. 

DEMCON Focal: high accuracy 

The company DEMCON Focal designs optical systems that meet high precision requirements, such as high-end camera lenses and exposures for medical systems. In addition, Focal designs systems for vision defect recognition that can detect and classify defects at micrometer level. Like LioniX, Focal plays a leading role in the market for optical systems.

Introduction of photonic diagnostics in general medical practice 

Led by scientist Sonia García Blanco of Mesa+, the University of Twente in collaboration with five companies are investigating a usable photonic system for quick detection of biomarkers. For what purpose? It can be used, for example, in a manageable device for GPs for diagnosing diabetes. The companies involved are Phoenix in Enschede, supplier of photonics tooling, Biovolt, a startup in medical diagnostics that is also based in Enschede, the photonics specialists Technobis in Alkmaar and VTEC in Eindhoven, and Medlon, a company that offers diagnostics services for medical practices.

Support for startups in photonics 

In addition to subsidizing the development of applications and products in key enabling technologies, companies in the region also receive support for setting up their business. For example, the photonics startups Dovideq Medical, Next Scan Technology, HyBriScan and Solmates were included in the Novel-T TOP program. Companies included in the TOP year program receive broad support, for instance support for business development, legal advice, communication advice, networks, and an interest-free loan.


Companies in Twente that are involved in photonics

Startups in photonics

What is integrated photonics? 

Fiber optic cables are the best known example of photonics. In fiber optics, data is transferred using light signals instead of electronic signals. This brings us to the key characteristic of photonics: the use of light (photons) for data processing or transfer. Photonic chips are created by integrating this technology in a chip. These 'light chips' are known for their low energy consumption and are used, for example, in highly sensitive sensors, in data communications, in switches for telephone exchanges and in microscopes. In some cases they can even generate and enhance light. These chips offer many advantages over the now commonly used electronic chips: a much higher data rate, fewer failures, and lower energy consumption. In addition, the chips are suitable for measuring the properties of materials and tissue. This enables a wide range of applications and opportunities for the healthcare, security and manufacturing industries. Twente has a strong position in these industries due to the unique knowledge and expertise available in the region. 

Read more about Phonotics

What is photonics and what is its relevance to the Netherlands & Overijssel?

LioniX: a world full of special chips

Panthera Group becomes a global player

Calculations in Twente result in improved reflectors for solar cells

Prizes for Dutch photonics



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