Photonics SMEs

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

What steps she is taking to support the development of photonics SMEs.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

We are working with the Photonics Leadership Group to support the success of the UK photonics industry. The Government have invested £81 million in the establishment of a new national extreme photonics application centre. The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics is involved in 17 Innovate UK-funded products. In addition, UK Research and Innovation has invested £7.2 million in partnerships with St Andrews and Strathclyde Universities, working on fundamental biophotonics research programmes.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

The Minister has rightly detailed some of the great expertise that exists in photonics and quantum across the UK, and particularly across the central belt of Scotland. When these SMEs are looking to expand, they often attract foreign investment from countries such as China, so what oversight is there of the potential technological transfer, in terms of both our expertise and threats to our security? What work are the Government doing with the Treasury to ensure that the expansion of such SMEs can be funded from UK sources?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

I thank the hon. Lady for her work as the chair of the all-party group on photonics. She is absolutely right: the central belt across Scotland—centred on Glasgow, in particular, and the new Clyde waterfront innovation district—is absolutely critical for our national success in photonics. As part of our national quantum technologies programme, which the Secretary of State alluded to, some £50 million will be invested in a hub for quantum imaging at Glasgow University by 2024. On business involvement, I am determined, as the Science and Innovation Minister, that we not only look at how we protect future intellectual property in this area and attract foreign investment through our international research and innovation strategy but, at the same time, look at new forms of protection through our innovation and regulation White Paper.