Photonics Worth £12.9B To The UK Economy


New figures show substantial value of light-based technology

The UK's Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and the Photonics Leadership Group (PLG) have reported that companies manufacturing light-based technology (photonics) in the UK contribute £12.9 billion to the country’s economy.

This updated analysis of the UK photonics industry shows a rise of £2.4 bn since the last report in 2013, recording an average growth rate of 5.3 percent, which finds UK photonics to be growing at twice the speed of the rest of the UK economy.

This growth reflects the increasingly critical role that light plays in next-generation products and manufacturing. From the lasers used in automotive production to make cars lighter and safer, to the cameras that help to keep our streets safer, to the optics used to both diagnose and increasingly treat patients in hospitals, and from the LED lighting reducing our electricity bills; to the fibre optics powering the internet, light technology is everywhere and increasingly essential to our modern lives, albeit often hidden inside key services, goods and processes.

The UK’s global reputation for innovation in photonics is reflected in the country’s exports of over 75 percent of its manufactured output, one of the highest export fractions of any UK manufacturing industry.


Over 65,000 people are employed in some 1,500 photonics companies across the country. The UK photonics workforce contributes £62,000 Gross Value Add per employee to the economy, which as a measure of productivity is almost three times the national average.

The methodology, developed by KTN in conjunction with the PLG and the Future Photonics Hub, utilises a fully revised company list and expert industry input on apportionment of revenues of diversified companies to enable UK photonics industry figures to be updated on an annual basis.

The data will also provide the basis foundations for of a new online map of the UK photonics landscape. The map, to be published by the KTN later this summer, will allow visualisation of the industry by sub-sector and region, which confirms to demonstrate the broad wide geographical reach of this key enabling technology.

KTN and PLG acknowledge the support of the Future Photonics Hub and Cobalt60 in the preparation of this data.

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