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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Photonics for Europe
Photonics21 Annual Meeting 2013/Brussels
29 April 2013
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I am delighted to be with your Community once again.
From lighting to laser manufacturing, from communications to cancer detection; photonics matters to our society, our economy, and our people.
It's not just a key enabling technology: it's one where Europe's industry is strong. And I intend to keep it that way.
I first proposed an ambitious public-private partnership in photonics a couple of years ago. And since then there's been very good progress.
Now we have before us a clear proposal: a roadmap to reinforce leadership in research and innovation.
I know over 60 photonics companies and research institutes are already fully committed; I hope that in due course all of you will sign up. So thank you to Michael Mertin and all those taking part.
This proposal is ambitious and strategic. Not a plan to subsidise an industry, but to strengthen Europe's innovation potential.
Because in fact, under these proposals, each euro of public money would leverage 4 euros of photonics investment. And this has a wider economic impact too: remember that this is an industry directly employing 290,000 people – but with an impact on 10% of all jobs in Europe.
Here are five ingredients for success.
First, the need to commit. I am doing so on behalf of the Commission; I hope you can do so too.
Second, we must pay more attention to innovative small and medium sized enterprises. With 5000 of them active in photonics, let's involve them more in the value chain, and better meet their needs.
Third, let's not work in silos. Photonics can help solve our societal challenges, like healthcare or climate change, so we need to engage more closely with those communities too.
Fourth, on funding.
The legislators are still discussing Horizon 2020. And it's clear that the overall result will be lower than the Commission proposal. But I am confident that the photonics budget in Horizon 2020 will still see a significant increase on the current programme, FP7.
Yet Horizon 2020 alone won't meet all your investment needs. We need other complementary sources of financing, especially when closer to the market. We are working with the European Investment Bank on this; and I hope you can persuade regional authorities to unlock the new cohesion funds for photonics too.
Fifth, I know your most important resource is people: human capital. Yet not enough people are studying to become scientists, engineers or entrepreneurs. That's bad for our competitiveness, and bad for our employment.
I know that the skills gap is already affecting and constraining the photonics industry. And I hope you will be able to provide the solution too. I've already seen great initiatives from you - like bringing the Photonics Explorer to classrooms. Our Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs is a new way of working together to solve that problem; I hope the photonics community will be able to make a pledge for that Coalition too. It's in your interest and mine.
Now you will soon be ready with your PPP proposal. I expect that you will be able to formally submit it to us within the next few weeks, and we can look forward to a Photonics PPP right from the beginning of Horizon 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this PPP will be a huge step forward, and our preparations are nearly complete. It can be a cornerstone of Horizon 2020; a lasting partnership between sectors; and a stimulant to European innovation. Our economy needs it; our society needs it; so let's take that step forward. Thank you.