Strengthening the “optical network” with Optics Netherlands.

Optics is all around us and is a key enabler for societal megatrends as a fundamental element of new technologies and applications.

In recent history, optical technologies with Dutch origin influenced innovation and created new markets. The impact the CD player had on societies in the 80s not only for the enjoyment of music but also for storing and sharing information cannot be overestimated. Even now communication is an essential part of our society and new optical technologies provide steadily increasing capacity for stable and safe data transfer.

The increasing need for data storage and transmission resulted in the conception of ASML, which is highly dependent on optical technologies in its wafer steppers, producing ever-advanced chips that connect our society and ease our daily life.

Optical technology allows Signify to reduce energy consumption by 80% with their LED solutions for their governmental, industrial, and consumer markets. Efficient lighting solutions are also crucial in greenhouse applications. The correct lighting environment for growing plants is beneficial for their health and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

Modern medicine heavily depends on ever-advancing imaging technologies for diagnosis as well as surgery and treatment. Since the 1800s scientists have been curious to study the living body from the inside. Nowadays surgeons and scientists can rely on high-resolution miniature cameras that provide an instant view for diagnosis as well as surgery, decreasing the recovery time for patients drastically.

Historically the Netherlands is leading in many research and application areas for new innovations in optical technologies.  It has given rise to an industrial ecosystem, that not only consists of a view of multi-nationals but several hundreds of SMEs that use optical innovations.

To support the optical community, we are installing a new Dutch institute: Optics Netherlands that comprises all optical research and education in the Netherlands on all universities and continues to support the close cooperation between the Dutch industry and academic institutes.

The institute has three focus areas: Education, Research, and Innovation.

Education of new talent is a first focus. Since optics is all around us, we need to educate new talents at all levels from Secondary vocational education (MBO), Higher professional education (HBO) and University education (WO). There is a bright future for a workforce that maintains optical technologies, adapts new optical technologies into the current infrastructure of our ever-increasing high-tech lifestyle and research new optical principles and applications. First activities have already taken place under the umbrella of the new institute such as a career event for photonics: CARLA camp. Another essential event was a summer school organized by Optics Netherlands where PhD students of four large research consortia were given a glimpse into alternative application areas of cutting edge optical technologies. 

Research focuses on new emerging technologies and creative ideas of using optical principles to solve existing societal challenges. By combining the knowledge of researchers at all academic institutions and having brainstorm sessions we will develop new ideas for proposals. Participating groups of Optics Netherlands have had a successful track record in submitting calls for research proposals such as NWO perspective calls and in recent months have defended two proposals in the third round as well as submitted a new initiative.

Innovation to turn academic research results into products is the third focus area of Optics Netherlands. We need a thriving industry that drives the innovation of new optical technologies. They create economic impact in The Netherlands by applying energy-saving, safe, and high-quality innovations. Startups need not only financial support but also a well-organized community that is easy to navigate for defining new application markets.

The institute is open to all Dutch educational and industrial partners and gratefully hosted by the 4TU federation.

Network partners

A crucial task of Optics Netherlands is to know what is going on in the field of optics worldwide and who is working in the technology and its applications. This opens up possibilities for cooperation in research, development, procurement and education, and for a joint efforts on lobbying and outreach. We are in contact with more than 300 organisations in the Netherlands, with the most relevant European countries active in optics (Germany, France, UK) as well as organisations in North America and Asia. This includes companies, research institutes and universities, clusters and government representatives.

doc network

Project partners

With our project partners we work on Optics Netherlands’ core activity: R&D projects resulting in new knowledge, new prototypes and new products. As the range of applications and the market size are both growing, there are still many more relevant topics, with a good business case, to explore and develop further.
We aim for joint projects, with mixed funding, leading to more strategic cooperations in the future.





BE Precision





Den Ouden

Diamond Kimberlit



European Regional Development Fund


Ferdinand Braun Institut

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