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German companies missing out on Asian funding, report states

A new photonics market study from Euro Asia Consulting (EAC) has found that German companies are missing opportunities to participate in funding programmes in China, Japan and South Korea.

The report, released at the Laser World of Photonics trade fair in Munich which took place from 22 to 25 June, stated that low awareness by German companies has ‘hindered German players’ active involvement in government research programmes in China, Japan and South Korea’. It added that the opportunities for German companies to position themselves at the centre of the global photonics industry ‘are currently neglected’.

The study also provided a warning to Europe regarding the amount of money Chinese, Japanese and South Korean governments were investing in photonics research - this figure is set to double from €2.1 billion in 2014 to €4.2 billion in 2020. This exceeds investment in Europe in photonics research, under the Horizon 2020 programme and the funding provided by individual EU member states combined – EU photonics funding ranges between €0.6 billion and €1.0 billion per year.

The market study was initiated by the industry associations Spectaris, VDMA and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, with the aim to analyse the political steering processes in Asia.

The report states that machine vision is a focus area for all three Asian countries, namely for robotics, factory automation, and 3D imaging. 

The report finds that participation of foreign companies in government-funded research in the three Asian countries is generally welcomed, especially if the company’s competences will benefit local industry, but that the company must have a local entity in the respective country.

However, participation by German companies is low because there’s little knowledge about local funding opportunities, the bureaucratic effort required is significant, a low amount of funding compared to the strict participation criteria, and the danger of technology know-how drainage.

During Laser World of Photonics, Thomas Merk, COO of Rofin-Sinar Laser Micro and Marking, commented that China exhibited disproportionate market growth in laser machine building. He said that there is a huge demand in China in particular for 1-2kW entry-level machines, with a trend towards fibre laser technology.

Merk will succeed Günther Braun of Rofin-Sinar Technologies as chairman of the VDMA Laser and Laser Systems for Material Processing working committee.

According to the EAC report, production technology receives the highest attention from the Chinese government, while medical technology and machine vision are not explicitly targeted yet, but are expected to receive greater strategic consideration in the future.

Japan’s future strategy lies in medical technology and machine vision, rather than production technology, according to the report, while the strongest efforts are in the medical technology segment in South Korea.

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