About PQA

The Photonics & Quantum Accelerator (PQA) is a £4.7M Place Based Impact Acceleration Account funded by UKRI via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

PQA brings together researchers from the Universities of Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews and Strathclyde, and a number of local authorities and industry bodies to advance the growth of the photonics sector in Scotland’s Central Belt.

Coloured beams of light travelling through transparent squares

Photonic technologies

Photonic technologies came of age in the final decades of the 20th century, and together with electronics and information technology, underpin the economic prosperity and well-being of modern society.

Much of photonics is hidden to the user but plays an essential and ubiquitous role, for example in:

  • high-speed optical communication
  • fabrication of integrated circuits
  • flat panel displays
  • photonic sensing and manufacture
  • a myriad of applications in medicine and the life sciences.

The global market for photonic technologies reached $722bn in 2021 and the UK photonics industry has a turnover of £14.5bn and employs 77,000 people.

Photonics technologies is the only sector in the UK to have maintained growth during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scotland’s Central Belt

Scotland’s Central Belt – from the Clyde in the west to the Forth in the east – is the economic heart of Scotland, but still bears social and economic scars of 1980s deindustrialization. There are significant areas with low levels of productivity, and a consequent lack of high-value jobs means that many communities across the Central Belt suffer from high deprivation and poor social outcomes.

Accelerating Scotland’s photonics sector

Photonic technologies has emerged as a success story in the recent mixed fortunes of Scottish industry. For more than half a century, the universities and industries in the Scottish Central Belt have been at the forefront of research and innovation in Photonic Technologies. Today, Scotland is recognized globally for its strength in photonics, and this established research and innovation cluster contributes more than £1bn to the Scottish economy. However, the full potential of photonics for economic and societal impact in central Scotland has not yet been achieved.

PQA will harness academic excellence in photonics and quantum technologies to accelerate growth of the sector for the economic and societal benefits in Scotland’s Central Belt. Working with our civic partners, we have developed a four-year plan to work together to accelerate growth:

  • by growing the photonics economy and photonics and quantum companies through entrepreneurship and company creation and engaging existing companies in related fields (e.g. electronics, manufacturing), that have not yet exploited the benefits of photonics technologies.
  • by growing the base of people skilled in photonics technologies so that the cluster is not limited by availability of skilled employees throughout all skill levels.
  • by increasing the public’s awareness of photonics and in particular the leading role of Scottish photonics industries, and to increase enthusiasm for photonics entrepreneurialism within Scottish schools.
Quantum researchers in a lab at the University of Glasgow.