Almost 20,000 people work in optical technologies – one of Germany's twelve key technologies – in Bavaria today. Between 2005 and 2008 alone, the production volume of the sector in Germany rose from EUR 16.3 billion to EUR 23.1 billion – an average growth of 12.2 per cent per year. Bavaria's share of this production is over 50 per cent in the lighting technology, information technology and communications technology sectors, and around 25 per cent in medical technology and life science.
Bavaria's photonics sector is making waves in many key fields. These include laser technology, optical production and optical design, as well as optical measuring and sensor technology, lighting, and optical information and communications technology. Photonics is also very significant in the field of biophotonics/life science. This shows how incredibly diverse the sector is in Bavaria. Key international players such as Ficosa subsidiary Adasens Automotive, Agfa-Gevaert HealthCare, Sill Optik, Osram Opto Semiconductors, Menlo Systems and Toptica Photonics all have sites here. The Munich-Augsburg area, Erlangen-Nuremberg and Regensburg are the regional focuses of optical technologies in Bavaria.
With nine universities relevant to photonics, 17 universities of applied sciences and eight research institutions, Bavaria holds the world's leading position in fundamental and application-orientated research in the field of optical technologies. Degree courses in optical technologies at universities in Bavaria include "Mechanical Engineering – Laser Technology" at the University of Applied Sciences Amberg-Weiden, "Mechatronics – Optical Engineering" at Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences, "Electronic and Mechatronic Systems, consolidation in Photonics" at Georg Simon Ohm University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg and "Photonics" at Munich University of Applied Sciences.
The universities are supported by important institutions conducting research in photonics, such as the German Aerospace Center at its Oberpfaffenhofen site, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Erlangen) and Fraunhofer ISC (Würzburg). In close cooperation with the universities, Bavaria's photonics companies also conduct research into cutting-edge technologies such as semiconductor and high-performance lasers. The Bavarian competence network "bayern photonics" and the Strategic Partnership for Sensor Technologies support further training for specialist staff and the recruitment of highly-qualified staff by companies, as well as the exchange of expertise and transfer of technology within the sector.
The bayern photonics cluster currently has around 80 members and acts as a single point of contact and specialist coordination office for research, manufacturers and users of optical technologies in Bavaria. It offers companies in the sector services such as education and further training opportunities, innovation management, sector marketing and start-up consultancy. The network provides its members with easier access to new markets, as well as offering partners and suppliers support in implementing research projects and finding research partners and ensuring a shorter time to market for their product innovations.
Together with eight other regional competence networks for optical technologies, “bayern photonics” has joined the “OptecNet Deutschland e.V.” competence network, which is active throughout Germany and internationally. Around 500 companies and research institutions are currently involved in this network. The European Optical Society offers a network at the European level. Its over 6,500 members include 22 national optical societies in Europe. Clusters significant to companies active in photonics in Bavaria include the Bavarian Nanotechnology and Sensor Technology clusters.