Nobel Laureates Slam EC over Photonics Funding

Three of the world’s most eminent scientists have warned that photonics, an area set to create one million new jobs in Europe by 2030, could be seriously compromised if it is not included in the Horizon Europe draft funding priority list.

Open letter to the European Commission by Gérard Mourou, Stefan Hell, and Ted Hänsch (Sources: École Polytechnique / Nobel Media AB, A. Mahmoud, F.M. Schmidt / Photonics21 / Hadrian, Shutterstock /

In an open letter to the European Commission from December 20th, 2018, the Nobel laureates heavily criticized the decision not to include photonics as a specific visible objective within the next one hundred billion euros research and innovation programme.

Photonics production, according to a recent publication could triple to more than two hundred billion euros in Europe by 2030, providing key components to future developments in driverless cars, healthcare, food production, and Industry 4.0, if the technology is maintained by the EU as a key funding priority through Horizon Europe.

The letter, addressed to Commissioner Gabriel and Commissioner Moedas and signed by Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry, says that deprioritizing photonics “would be a serious strategic mistake”.

The scientists point out that the photonics sector has gained a world-leading position, with an impressive number of European Nobel Prizes awarded as a direct result of the investment and specialist status given to light technologies through Horizon 2020.

Recognizing nine areas of intervention in the Digital and Industry Cluster, the open letter recommends photonics be considered as “the tenth technology priority”.

The three signatories were Prof. Gérard Albert Mourou, Physics Nobel Prize winner for the invention of chirped pulse amplification a technique used to create ultrashort-pulse, very high-intensity petawatt laser pulses, Prof. Stefan Hell who developed a method in which one light pulse causes fluorescent molecules to glow, while another causes all molecules except those in a very narrow area to become dark, and Prof. Theodor Hänsch, whose work on the optical frequency comb technique won him, along with John Hall and Roy Glauber, a joint Nobel Prize.

The Nobel Laureate winners believe that the photonics sector “is an important building block of the next digital revolution” and that it is “essential for powering the future European digital economy”. (Source: Photonics21)

Links: Horizon Europe, the next research and innovation framework programme – The Commission’s proposalEuropean Commission Research and Innovation (Carlos Moedas) • Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner Digital Economy and SocietyPhotonics21 vision paper “Europe’s age of light! – How photonics will power growth and innovation” (PDF)


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