CST Global's technology day, with Carol Monaghan MP, helps launch the 'T@CST' photonics collective


16 May 2018

CST Global's technology day allowed local photonics businesses; MPs and MSPs; innovation and funding bodies; university professors; and press and media, including the BBC; to join CST Global to celebrate the expansion of its III-V, compound semiconductor manufacturing site, in Glasgow.

Neil Martin, CEO of CST Global, addressed the guests with a speech entitled 'The Photonics Gold Rush of 2019.' He covered the size and growth of the photonics market; the significance of enabling technology to dependent industries and its impact on society; the challenges faced in recruiting international talent; and the importance of funding to accelerate entry into new technology sectors and markets. He described the current photonics industry opportunity as a modern-day gold rush, likely to peak during 2019. This time the urgency is to prove feasibility and own new technology. He stressed how critical the photonics industry will be to the UK economy and GDP over the next ten years.

Neil went on to launch Technology at CST, or 'T@CST' as it is now known, stating,

We plan to facilitate a collective voice for photonics companies in Scotland through the T@CST think-tank. Industrialists, professors, engineers, funders and the government will all be invited to help to identify the steps necessary to commercialise new photonics technologies being developed. The first meeting of T@CST will look at the key steps necessary to take Quantum Technologies out of the lab and into everyday life. Sir Peter Knight, Professor of Quantum Optics at Imperial College, London, will host.

Carol Monaghan MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Photonics and a Member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, provided CST Global's Technology day, keynote address. Carol graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in laser physics and optoelectronics and is MP for Glasgow North West.

I set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Photonics to increase understanding of this key, but often unknown industry.

The central belt of Scotland is a hotbed for photonics research, from Glasgow and Strathclyde universities in the west to Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and St Andrews in the east. These industry-facing universities allow great and rich partnerships between industry and research that allow SMEs to flourish. In Scotland, the presence of a number of major multinationals, combined with this outstanding research base, has enabled the central belt to become a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of high-value lasers.

Across Scotland, photonics currently provides employment for around 3,000 people. Laser sales are in excess of £200 million per annum, and 90% of those sales are exports. It enables other industries to be competitive and 10% of UK jobs depend on it.

The shortages in science, technology, engineering and maths skills may pose a threat to the photonics industry. Thus one of the biggest concerns for the photonics industry, is Brexit. Access to the single market and to skilled and experienced staff are vital to our photonics companies. Continued collaboration with our European research partners, and continued access to the brightest and the best must be a priority in all Brexit negotiations. Our EU national colleagues and partners still need certainty over their current and future status and it is an utter disgrace that nearly two years after the vote to leave the European Union, we still do not have clarity on this.

But we also have a challenge to grow our own talent. Scotland's school curriculum has undergone major changes. Skills in communication, investigation, evaluation and analysis are now given far greater importance and our schools are training our young people to be the confident individuals that industry requires.

CST Global's technology day was attended by Ged Killen MP, Monica Lennon MSP and Carol Monaghan MP; Gavin Whitefield CBE, the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire; Professors of Glasgow University and Strathclyde University; Innovate UK; Technology Scotland; Scottish Enterprise; UK Compound Semiconductor Catapult; Compound Semiconductor Magazine, Optical Connections magazine, the BBC and local paper, the Hamilton Advertiser; and leaders of five photonics-based companies in Scotland – Compugraphics, Gas Sensing Solutions, Kelvin Nanotechnology (KNT), Pure LiFi and Renishaw.

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