Shedding light: photonics and sensor technology in Bavaria

Both the photonics and sensor technology industry are quite rightly considered to be key technologies, particularly with regard to themes like Industry 4.0. The State of Bavaria is playing a pioneering role in both areas, which is thanks not least to innovative research and its strong companies.

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Shedding light – that’s the remit for photonics. And not as an end in itself: the industry permeates all areas of society, the economy and science. This ranges from agriculture to telecommunications and information processing to robotics. Making photonics one of the most important industries in Bavaria.

Basic research, an innovation driver


Production engineering, energy and lighting technology, medical technology, environmental technology, plasma technology, information and communications technology: all these areas ultimately rely on basic research from photonics to be able to drive their own innovations. And the industry is booming. The production volume for the whole of Germany in 2014 was 29.4 billion euros, of this the Bavarian share of the market in lighting technology and information and communications technology is over 50 percent and roughly 25 percent in medical technology and life sciences.

Germany and worldwide networking


Photonics is one of the key technologies in Germany – and Bavaria is a clear industry leader compared to the rest of the country. Thanks to more than 450 Bavarian companies, including Ficosa, Still Optik, Osram Opto Semiconductors, Menlo Systems and Toptica Photonics, who employ 20,000 people.

The industry’s central point of contact and coordination centre for all companies, research institutes and users in Bavaria has been the bayern photonics professional cluster since 2000, which currently has roughly 80 members. The cluster’s research focuses on the areas of laser technology, optics design, optics production, optical measuring technology and sensors as well as biophotonics and life sciences. The association is also a member of OptecNet Deutschland e.V., the national association of optical technology innovation networks that guarantees national content networking.

The meet-up at Laser World of Photonics, which takes place every two years in Munich, also guarantees networking. The worldwide leading industry event for optical technologies brings roughly 1,200 exhibitors from 30 countries together with 30,000 trade visitors from more than 70 countries.

Sensor technology: close contact with innovations


The sensor technology industry is closely related to photonics and just as much a key technology. As a universal cross-cutting technology and innovations provider it is crucial in particular with themes like Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. Optical processes play an important part in the development of sensors alongside the measuring of variables such as pressure, temperature or acceleration.

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Mechanical and plant engineering, agriculture, automobile manufacturing, household electronics – hardly any industry can do without sensors nowadays. The sales of sensors have accordingly risen by 70 percent over the last ten years. Bavaria is taking a leading role in the process – 23 percent of the German sensor technology firms are based in the state, including well-known names like Infineon, Osram, Knorr-Bremse, Webasto, Siemens Healthcare, Continental and Fraunhofer. But it’s not just established companies that are ensuring the industry’s progress, as the start-up scene is also involved as a driver of innovation. A good example of this is iNDTact GmbH from Würzburg, which develops sensor systems for the acoustic measurement of emissions. The young company won the Bavarian Founder’s Award in 2015 and the German Founder’s Award in 2016, both in the start-up category.

Besides bayern photonics, the interests of all companies, research institutes and universities are focused on in the Strategische Partnerschaft Sensorik e.V., association, which has officially been the cluster management for the industry since 2006. The next date in the industry’s events calendar is the Sensor+Test measurement fair that is the leading forum for sensors, measuring and testing technologies worldwide.