Aston University’s photonics project to help local businesses grow


Aston University has secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund for the second stage of a fibre optics and laser sensing technologies project to deliver technical support to SMEs in the West Midlands so that they understand the advantages and potential opportunities of embracing a range of photonics technologies in their business.  

Photonics is the science and technology platform based on the use of photons (particles of light).  It is one of the fastest growing research and technology areas. Photonics-based applications include; telecommunications, data storage, optical imaging, medical diagnostics and many others. Photonics is a crucial enabling technology that can be used to raise the productivity of manufacturing companies in the West Midlands.  

The development of new photonic technologies in the UK is currently considered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Technology Strategy Board among the top priorities in development of innovative high-technology businesses. However, a key issue facing businesses in the West Midlands is that most companies are unaware of photonics technologies and the potential advantages for application in their business.    

Aston University has strong expertise in the area of photonics and a successful history of transferring this knowledge to SMEs. This project will help to raise awareness by giving local businesses the opportunity to learn how photonics can fundamentally change their existing technologies and help their business to grow.  

The recently completed phase one of the project which developed new fibre-optic technologies and offered innovative knowledge transfer to businesses in the region was a proven success with 60 businesses benefitting from Aston’s academic expertise, 30 of which were new collaborators. Phase two of the project will provide further technical support through innovative equipment such as bespoke demonstrator units, and enable further knowledge transfer activities with new and existing companies so that they can learn about the advantages of photonics technologies.  

The project is funded by the West Midlands European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Phase two of the project has secured £295,245 of funding from ERDF which will be matched by Aston University.  

Norman Price, Deputy Chair of the West Midlands ERDF Local Management Committee said, “I am really pleased that we are able to offer additional support through the European Regional Development Fund to phase two of this project which will help businesses in the world of photonic technologies to seize and take forward significant business opportunities.”  

He added, “Through this project we are able to help businesses work together and test out new technologies to identify cost savings and help establish brand new products that will boost profits, support longevity of our regional businesses and help strengthen the local economy. Grasping such new technological opportunities is a fundamental basis for economic growth.”

Professor Sergei Turitsyn, from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University said: “Aston University’s Institute of Photonic Technologies is a world recognised centre of excellence and one of the largest research groups in photonics in the UK. This funding for phase two of the project will enable us to transfer our expertise to local SMEs and offer them the technical support required to utilise this innovative technology and help their business to develop.”

For further information on this project please contact Caroline Smeeton, c.smeeton@aston.ac.uk or 0121 204 3933. To discover more about working in partnership with Aston University contact Emma Sutton in the Business Partnership Unit, e.sutton@aston.ac.uk or 0121 204 4542.


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