Asian shift in policies to impact laser material processing

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A photonics market study initiated by the German engineering association, the VDMA, has found that Asian research and innovation policies are shifting to target photonics technologies, including material processing. In the next few years, the focus of Asian research policies will move towards the domain of German and European photonics suppliers, mainly regarding laser material processing, lithography, machine vision and medical technology, the report has said.

The study, released at the Laser World of Photonics trade fair in Munich in June, focuses on China, Japan and South Korea. Euro Asia Consulting PartG analysed over 5,000 research programmes and conducted detailed interviews with key local decision makers and market experts, all with a focus on Europe’s strong photonics core segments, namely production technology, machine vision and medical technology.

The amount of support given by the governments of China, Japan and South Korea will double from €2.1 billion in 2014 to €4.2 billion in 2020, according to the study. This is compared to €600 million of European photonics support to be provided by 2020.

In an article for Electro Optics, Annika Löffler at the VDMA Photonics Forum commented that, apart from the higher funding in Asia, what is more critical is that Asian countries have modified their research and innovation strategies.

Gerhard Hein, director of VDMA Laser and Laser Systems, said at Laser World of Photonics: ‘From our current strong position, we consider this a signal to German and European manufacturers. It certainly makes more sense to point out risk potentials that the German industry and the BMBF have intentionally put on the agenda than to lean back and enjoy the comfort of our current know-how edge and temporarily competitive prices.’

In China, the top-down approach of political steering processes concentrating on basic research and development will change in 2017 to more market-driven strategies, according to Löffler. ‘Apart from just receiving the benefits of official promotion programmes, the private sector will become an active contributor to the expansion of innovation and process chains aiming to enhance the efficiency of technology transfer and the commercialisation of innovations,’ she said.

The Chinese government will be increasingly focused on production technology, currently one of the major German and European photonics strengths.

The Japanese government's strategic and research impetus is moving away from production technologies and towards medical technology and machine vision, the report found.

South Korea has a combined top-down and bottom-up approach providing the country with the most efficient political steering strategies and the highest technological maturity of the three, according to Löffler. ‘By aiming to localise core technologies, increase its export capacity and further streamline its support policy with market needs, South Korea has become a particularly serious threat,’ she said.

Löffler commented: ‘European companies will have to ask themselves to what extent they should be open for cooperation with Asian partners in order to prevent a loss in market shares – and whether they should actively seize the opportunity of benefitting from Asian support initiatives and placing themselves nearer the centre of the global photonics market.’

The full article from Annika Löffler can be found here.

The executive report of the study is available for download here.