Guest feature | What makes photonics disruptive?

08/30/2016  |  CODE_n16 Startup CONTEST, new.New Festival, Partner

“Photonics 4.0” is one out of four themed clusters on the agenda at this year’s CODE_n new.New Festival. The German photonics community is taking advantage of the occasion to meet up there at the “Photonik Strategie Forum 2016“. The sector is expecting a wide selection of input on the subject of the digital transformation at the start-up festival.


(Quelle: VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH)

The international photonics market generates annual sales revenues of around 350 billion euro and is expected to grow to around 615 billion euro by the year 2020. But what is photonics? Photonics is derived from the word “photon”, which is the light particle, and electronics. The term photonics is used for technologies which generate light, control it or harness it for our use.

These typically include high-power lasers which can cut effortlessly through metal sheets measuring several centimetres in thickness. Or super bright LEDs in car headlights which illuminate the road in every situation perfectly using an intelligent sensor system. This also includes various types of high-precision optics which are used in lifesaving imaging techniques and microscopes, which are installed in compact smartphone cameras or which look into the depth of space as eyes of telescopes.

When we encounter the science of photonics in everyday life, it is often “visible invisible”. And yet it is essential for many aspects of life in our modern digital age. This is particularly significant in the case of the Internet. Only with an almost infinite number of short light pulses in fibre optics our gigantic volumes of data actually can be transported around the entire globe.

Photonics at CODE_n – digital change on the agenda

At the same time, the global market is being changed by the Internet, the increasing digitisation, and the associated integration of processes. In this new digital world, industry and science have to face new conditions and challenges which will lead to new business areas, networks and partners but also to new competitors. The opportunities which come with digitisation are enormous but are also critical if the input in shaping the change comes too late. The relevant motto is often “disrupt or be disrupted”.

The German photonics sector is also taking digitisation on board in this age of Industry 4.0, the Sharing Economy and Open Innovation. The inspiring and innovative setting of the festival is exactly the right format for an extensive photonics programme:

  • 52 young start-up companies, of which 13 are photonics start-ups, will be presenting their pitches on stage at the festival
  • Photonics cluster partner, global partner and laser machine manufacturer TRUMPF will be offering many activities at its booth and opportunities for networking
  • Connections to the “Photonics 4.0” cluster will also be made in the events of the clusters “Connected Mobility” and “HealthTech”
  • The central event for the community on the topic of light will be the photonics strategy forum, “Photonik Strategie Forum 2016”, on 22 September

Photonic speeches – fantastic digital

With a capacity of 1000 visitors the main stage is waiting with three highlight presentations in the morning programme. At 10:40 Peter Leibinger, managing partner of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG, will be taking a fascinating look into tomorrow’s world of photonics. Christoph Keese, journalist and Executive Vice President of Axel Springer SE, will then be reporting with first-hand experience from Silicon Valley and what we can learn from it.

The event will take a fantastic digital turn at 11:40 with Armin Pohl, CEO of Mackevision Medien Design GmbH. He will be explaining how the flood of digital images is changing our perception of reality in high-end image and video productions. His company specialises in 3D visual effects and won the Emmy Award in 2014 in the “Outstanding Special Visual Effects” category for Season 4 of the fantasy epic “Game of Thrones”.

Photonics panel sessions – have your say

There will be 6 panel sessions in the afternoon in the “Kubus” on the first floor where the main topics of the research agenda for the upcoming years will be presented and discussed. The sessions will be chaired by Robert Thielicke, editor-in-chief of the Technology Review which is published by Heise Zeitschriften Verlag. Items on the agenda:

The Photonik Strategie Forum 2016 is hosted by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The festival of innovation as a whole will be under the patronage of Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka.

Since 2012 the BMBF has been supporting cooperative research and industry projects through the “Photonik Forschung Deutschland” funding programme for photonics research in Germany. This forum is part of a process involving work on the agenda for the second half of the funding programme. Over 300 experts from the community have already taken part in this process.