During the Digital Life Design Festival in Tel Aviv on September 27, 2016 the Eindhoven Institute for Photonic Integration & Photon Delta and the Israel Center for Advanced Photonics signed a Photonics MoU to commit to a joint R&D program. The Photonics MoU is based on a MoU between Israel and The Netherlands to collaborate on Industrial R&D, which was signed in 1993. The Photonics MoU states that the cooperation will contribute to solving the major global societal challenges faced today and create significant additional economic activities in both Israel and The Netherlands by integrating photonic circuits and fiber based technologies. After reading this MoU statement, I couldn’t help myself wondering what it entails and what possibilities it would provide to both countries. This is what I found out.
The Netherlands has invested 400 million EUR since 1995 and has become a strong market leader in the field. According to SPIE, The Netherlands holds rank 6 in the photonics research sector and ranks 4th in national companies that are active in photonics e.g. Philips, OCE/Canon or ASML. The country has a scientific position in important photonic segments (Dutch universities and NWO initiatives) and a highly qualified high-tech industry with specific nano-electronics and mechatronics expertise. Examples of these institutes are Photon Delta, OPNT, TNO & TUE for Photonic Integration. In addition to this, the Dutch market also includes more than 150 SME’s which are already embracing photonics for innovation.
Israel started its roadmap towards photonics in 1993. However, it was already known for its optics research in the 1960’s mainly due to Prof. Emanuel Goldberg who brought his knowledge to the region after fleeing Germany in 1937 and establishing his startup, Goldberg Instruments. Goldberg instruments designed and manufactured optical devices. A few years later, in 1962, another startup that involved optics was established by Professor Joe Jaffe of the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot Instruments. Rehovot develops infrared for commercial and military applications. These two companies were the basis for El-OP ltd, that later merged with Elbit. Next to Elbit, international enterprise SCITEX is a well-known international and was bought by Kodak in the late nineties. Since the country successfully integrated photonics in diverse sectors, it started to focus on commercial activities in 1975, but mainly still used it for its defense infrastructure. Nowadays Israel has more than 250 companies active in electro optics, having sales of about 4 billion $/year (2010) and holds 7 universities offering programs. In 2014 Israel decided to expand its roadmap and published the tender for the Israel Center for Advanced Photonics to create a national photonics and electro-optics research center in Yavne. According to SPIE, Israel ranks 18th in the field of research and ranks 21 in companies active in photonics.
So, what is photonics?
The term photonics reflects the importance of the photon nature of light in describing the operation of many optical devices and uses the physical science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and detection/sensing. Some people might get confused as optics is often mentioned when speaking about photonics, but in fact photonics is a broader term and embraces optics. Both Photonics and Optics fundamentally deal with “manipulating” light. However, photonics goes further because generation and detection of said light is also included. In optics we consider light to be either a particle or a wave. In photonics, they integrate the quantum notion that the light quanta (photons) have properties characterizing BOTH a wave and a particle. As both aspects are essential in explaining and analyzing light behavior completely, both aspects must be considered for a detailed study.
The first discovery of photonics was made in 1962 after the first Industrial Revolution. At the time photonics was applied to lasers and made it possible to retrieve a better understanding of the physical underpinnings inanimate nature. Furthermore, it was also used to apply the design of principles of nature to machines. Photonics has evolved throughout two industrial revolutions (the second and the third). Currently photonics is a front runner of the fourth Industrial Revolution that is focused and characterized by a fusion of technologies, which is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. These technologies involve the internet, nanotechnology, bioscience, electronics, photonics, advanced materials and renewable energies.
The Dutch photonics industry has unique positions in medical diagnostics/therapy, data processing, telecommunication (FttH, interconnect), modern lighting systems, consumer sensor/safety, automotive and water sector. Its strength is in application knowledge and design in high tech systems such as lithography, solid state lighting, generic waferfab processes and platform technologies. To strengthen the position of the Netherlands, the Dutch photonics industry will be focusing on applying and integrating it into the ICT, Agro-food, Water, Energy, Healthcare, automotive, aerospace, big science and security sector.
Israel sees today the optical & photonics research and development as an important scientific field, a major enabling technology and will continue its investments in optics. Future programs include more work on biomedical diagnostics and treatment, devices and software for vision and image understanding, as well as solar energy and environmental monitoring. A good example for the medical field is Given Imaging, which developed a non-invasive pillcam that provides visualization of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Another sector is the military sector where large companies like Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit systems are already providing lasers, night vision and remote sensing technologies with integrated optics and photonics technologies. Thirdly, Israel focuses on optical communications that ensure transmitters and receivers and material processing goes smoothly.
Considering the fact that both countries have a great track record in optics and photonics the MoU seems a great idea to stimulate the search for new solutions that solve major global societal challenges faced today and create significant additional economic activities. When comparing the focus areas to the Netherlands, collaboration opportunities could lie in the defense and security, ICT, automotive industry, aerospace as well as the renewable energy and health and life science sectors. The aforementioned sectors would most likely receive preferences as companies like ASML, Philips, Airborne and OCE/Canon as they can start collaborating with companies such as Given Imaging, Mobile Eye or IAI to improve and develop the techniques of integrated photonics and optics for the sector that apply this technology. “The trend toward innovation is a huge opportunity for the photonics industry. Until relatively recently, photonics was integrated into car only through lighting functions. However, photonic technology provides critical functions for imaging, sensing, and smart displaying or for media communication networks. As a consequence, photonics is expected to be widely adopted beyond lighting”.
 Marom, Emanuel, et al., eds. Unconventional optical elements for information storage, processing and communications. Vol. 75. Springer Science & Business Media, 2000. p. 287
 http://spie.org/about-spie/press-room/pw15-news – It is to be noted that this information dates back from 2011, no other current public information has been found on this ranking system from SPIE.
 Saleh, B. E., Teich, M. C., & Saleh, B. E. (1991). Fundamentals of photonics (Vol. 22). New York: Wiley.
 Karthaus, O. (Ed.). (2012). Biomimetics in photonics. CRC Press.p.IX