Israel is looking to become a major power in photonics and over the past few days has set up a new national research institute that will operate within the Soreq Nuclear Research Center near Yavne south of Tel Aviv. The government is investing NIS 200 million in the new institute. Photonics is about the creation, strengthening, transmission and processing of photons - light particles, and it is considered one of the buzz fields in technology, with an average annual growth rate of 7%.
The five year process to set up the new institute was led by the Ministry of Defense's Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAF'AT), Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and the Ministry of Finance in partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority, the Council for Higher Education's Planning and Budget Committee, and the Forum of Chief Scientists.
Sources at the government ministries involved in the establishment of the new research center told "Globes" that as part of the development of knowhow and capabilities in this sector, it will be possible to expand the ability to transmit data over fiber optic communications cables more swiftly and more cheaply at the speed of light.
The new research institute will also promote research into the development of powerful lasers for industrial and military uses, waves for optic cameras for installation into autonomous cars, LED lighting, fiber optics, semiconductors, and more.
The Ministry of Defense's MAF'AT has decided that promoting photonics research is a top national priority. According to MAF'AT head Danny Gold "The Ministry of Defense is developing and making extensive use of photonics technology and already a decade ago, we identified the field as the next growth engine for Israel's defense industry and high-tech."
Gold told "Globes," "The field has huge potential in developing future weapons systems as well in the areas of medicine, data communications, manufacturing, data processing and more. Israel has a broad, quality infrastructure that is recognized internationally. The national infrastructure that we have set up with a very large investment will dramatically push forwards Israel's capabilities in the field of light and laser science."
The Ministry of Defense says that there are about 350 companies in Israel based on photonics, of which 70% are small companies. Employees in these companies number over 20,000, a quarter of them in research and development for products and technologies related to the sector. The average annual aggregate sales turnover of these companies is $6 billion, 90% of which comes from exports. Professional sources in the Ministry of Defense say that global activity in the sector is projected to expand in the next five years and increase the revenue of the companies in the sector by up to $800 billion.
Establishing a national center for advanced photonics began at the end of a tender process won by the Soreq Nuclear Research Center and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Dr. Raphy Lavi will head the center.
"Up until now, Israel had excellent personnel in this sphere, but there was a clear lack of infrastructure that could facilitate cutting-edge achievements. The new center is designed to close this gap and put Israel on the same level as the world's most advanced development centers," Lavi says.
He adds that the center will serve various academic research bodies and defense research by the defense industries for special developments, while generating generic information for the use of all the concerns involved in the sector. Already at the early stages of setting up the center, a number of ventures by leading academic and industrial researchers have been approved in an attempt to tighten cooperation between them in this area.
The photonics research center is being founded a few weeks after the Israel Innovation Center and the Ministry of Defense for the first time launched a consortium of defense and civilian companies in the quantum field. The consortium is aimed at promoting research in this area for the development of future technologies that will make it possible to develop new products and applications for civil and defense use in the coming years.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 16, 2019
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