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last updated June 21st 2017

Will Exponential Growth of Photonics mean a shortage of talent?

The established money-making machines at Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet (parent company of Google) are very different from each other. But as the New York Times reported in April 2017, their Q1 2017 earnings report revealed that cloud computing is becoming financially more important to all three of them.

Amazon, the leader in on-line retailing, said the $890 million in operating income from Amazon Web Services accounted for most of its overall profits.

Microsoft, the No. 2 player in cloud computing is steadily making the transition to that business. The Azure cloud hosting business grew by 93 percent from the year-earlier quarter.

Alphabet has told analysts that the Google cloud platform is one of the company’s “fastest-growing businesses”. Although the parent company offered no details, Urs Hoelzle of Google revealed the extent of growth at this year’s Optical Fiber Communication Conference. In the last 10 years, Google's infrastructure has scaled by TWO orders of magnitude. 1 billion hours of YouTube video are watched every day - that means 10,000 hours a second.

But although things appear to be booming right now in the photonics sector, large international corporations are warning that change is needed. With 10X growth in just the datacentre markets over the last 3 years, different approaches will be needed to cope with exponential growth in photonics enabled industries.  

Positioning Photonics as the Smartest Career move

In the run-up to the World Technology Mapping Forum in June 2017, PhotonDelta has launched a wake-up call for academia.

“If Europe is going to maintain its lead in Photonics, then its academic institutions need to do much more to position photonics as a smart career path.” says Ewit Roos, MD of PhotonDelta.

“Other industry sectors are already aware of the acute shortage of students with qualifications in high tech related subjects. Some, like Artificial intelligence, robotics and automotive have benefited from public awareness through TV and social networks and movies on subjects like code-breaking. That’s more difficult with a key-enabling technology like photonics. But now is the time to make a clearer case for optics.”

“There are a growing number of study portals where students can compare courses and find the best universities and colleges. It's worrying that when you enter the word photonics or even nanotechnology into these new search engines, very little, often incomplete information comes back. We’re putting out a European-wide call to fix that.”

“At the same time, there is good news from the East of The Netherlands, where high-tech photonics companies have taken a different approach. They persuaded the University of Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences to build complementary courses to supply the Netherlands with the right kind of high-tech skills that are needed."

The short explainer video above explains why this move is important. 


Building a Career in Photonics: Choosing the right course

We believe there is a need more initiatives like this across Europe. And we’re always interested in what colleagues in other countries have built and how they get the word out. If you’re interested, get in touch with . There has never been a better time to build a career in Photonics. 


In the coming months, this section of the PhotonDelta portal will profile more companies, students, and entrepreneurs who are helping to build the most vibrant Photonics ecosystem in the world.

In the meantime, let's highlight the latest annual survey produced by the international Society for Photonics and Optics (SPIE). They contacted 7000 people working in this sector in January 2017. They concluded that offices and laboratories for optics and photonics professionals are great places to work because of the respect from coworkers, opportunity for advancement, paid vacation and flexible work hours. And it’s a bonus that the pay is so good.

Complete interview

"Our name PhotonDelta is deliberate" explains Managing Director, Ewit Roos. "Because a fragmented approach to building the multi-billion Photonics business is never going to scale. And Europe will need to work hard to maintain its competitive edge."

Disruptive innovation comes when young companies get access and interact with knowledge already gained by high-tech enterprises and applied research institutes.

Investors really get interested when technologies have validated themselves and are ready to scale-up.

So think of Photondelta as a global business accelerator with a Dutch accent. It’s built on the regional expertise and excellence that you find in Eindhoven, Enschede and Delft. In fact, The Netherlands is one large Photonics Delta!

Complete interview

There's never been a better time to build a career in Photonics.


Master in Applied Nanotechnology, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Enschede

The distinguishing feature of the Master degree programme Applied Nanotechnology is the design and development of innovative products and applications in the field of nanotechnology. As such, this Master degree programme is unique in the Netherlands. Nanotechnology, design, solving problems for diverse target groups, high-tech skills and knowledge of various disciplines are the themes that run throughout the programme. This Master degree programme is all about translating new theory into as-yet-unknown innovative applications.

During the programme, you will always have access to the latest international knowledge and literature. The teaching materials are in English, which is also the language of instruction.
The Master degree programme Applied Nanotechnology is offered jointly by Saxion and the University of Twente (UT). You will be using both Saxion’s laboratory facilities in the High Tech Factory and the UT’s own top-class facilities, such as the MESA+ NanoLab.

More details of the two-year course are given on this part of Saxion's University of Applied Sciences website. The course starts in September of each year. 

Complete interview

Twente has an outstanding collaborative ecosystem

"The Eastern region of The Netherlands has become one of the largest photonics research centres in the world" says René Heideman one of the co-founders of a company which invested in several enterprises to create the photonics ecosystem in Enschede. LioniX International is a foundry set up to fabricate the photonic chips for these companies. They are based in the Gallery, the impressive entrepreneurial centre at the University of Twente in Enschede.

"If you just take the number of people working within LioniXInternational and PhoeniX Software over the road, that's more than 80 people building their career in integrated photonics. In addition, the University of Twente has over 100 researchers working within the Applied Nano Photonics cluster alone."

Because of the existence of standardisation and the Multi-Project Wafers, there are several career openings for bachelor students. René is a visiting professor in the field of Nanotechnology at the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) Saxion, in Enschede. Watch the video above for more details. 


Complete interview

Lionix International is already sharing our lessons learned to grow talent across the Netherlands.


Master in Broadband Telecommunication Technologies 

The Broadband Telecommunication Technologies Master at Eindhoven University of Technology has a broad program with mandatory subjects:

  • Electromagnetism
  • Physics
  • Math
  • Digital Network Techniques
  • Performance analyses

Besides these mandatory subjects, you can choose from over thirty electives. For example:

  • Photonic IC’s
  • Network exploitation
  • Computational Electro-Magnetics
  • Adaptive Signal Amplification
  • Ultrafast Optical Linking
  • Coding theory

The program also contains subjects on professional development and two internships. You will end the Master with a research project. After this Master, the TU/e offers the Broadband Telecommunication Technologies (BTT) Master certificate.

Complete interview

Career Advice from Dr. Boudewijn Docter CTO, Effect Photonics, Eindhoven

I graduated at a time when photonics was still mainly confined to experiments in the clean room. I had studied for a Masters in integrated photonics at the University of Twente, coming to Eindhoven in 2004 to check out the possibilities.

In that year, I decided that research was the only path. I did a Ph.D with Eindhoven University of Technology, where I was introduced to the interesting properties of Indium Phosphide. It is the only material system where you can have all the functionalities in the same platform. So you can build light sources as well as the switches and the filters all in one chip. During the PhD, I spent a lot of time in the clean room at their Nanolab learning the process from design through fabrication to testing.

Complete interview

Hiring the wrong people can destroy a start-up. Spend time on building the right team.