The Photonics Industry: Australia’s invisible giant

A report released today reveals that the photonics industry in Australia and New Zealand has grown remarkably in recent years and is now a significant contributor to the economy.

Lighting Economic Growth: Photonics in Australia and New Zealand estimates the local photonics industry comprises over 500 companies with more than 12,000 employees, and contributes $5.4 billion dollars to the Australian and New Zealand economies.

“It is exciting to see the report by the Australian and New Zealand Optical Society on the large scale of the Photonics industry in the region,” said Professor Dragomir Neshev, a researcher at RSPhys and Director of the TMOS Centre of Excellence.

“Photonics underpins a wide range of industries, from wearable health sensors to autonomous vehicles. It really is an invisible giant.”

The term photonics covers any technology based on the transmission and processing of light, (in contrast with electricity-based electronics) and ranges from conventional cameras and optics, through lasers and optic fibres, to radical new technology such as quantum computers and sensors.

The Report was released by the Australian and New Zealand Optical Society and is available here.

Photonics has long been a strength of the ANU Research School of Physics (RSPhys), which has repeatedly taken blue-sky research and transformed it to commercial success.

ANU-originated spin-off companies cover technology such as laser systems (Hotlight Systems), quantum cybersecurity (Quintessence Labs) and light-based quantum computing (Quantum Brilliance), said RSPhys Director, Professor Tim Senden.

“Physics at ANU excels in precision and novel measurement.

“The innovative technical environment that fosters our spin-off companies also benefits our global partnerships, and indeed all the fundamental research we do,” Professor Senden said.

RSPhys is a partner in five photonics-related Centres of Excellence: TMOS (generating, manipulating and detecting light at the nanoscale using disruptive concept of meta-optics), CQC2T (next generation quantum computing and communication technology), EQUS (quantum materials, engines and precision imaging systems for quantum machines), FLEET (low-energy electronics based on quantum materials) and OzGrav (quantum noise reduction technology, applied to gravitational wave astrophysics).

Additionally, RSPhys is involved in new funding of $8.7 million. The project includes a $2.8 million Cooperative Research Centre Project grant to a consortium led by Australian manufacturer Advanced Navigation. They are working with ANU and RMIT University to create next-generation photonic navigation technology. The project will transform research generated by RSPhys’ Applied Metrology group into real-world products manufactured in Australia and exported to the world.

A full list of innovation projects at RSPhys is on our Innovation Page, and our wide range of photonics  research projects can be found on the Photonics research theme page.


Prof Dragomir Neshev
T: (02)61253792

Updated:  15 January 2019/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster