Laser industry in Scotland 'worth £660m'

Image caption, The laser sector employed 3,000 people in Scotland in 2009, according to the report

The laser industry is worth £660m to the Scottish economy, a new report has suggested.

The study was launched by Minister for Enterprise Jim Mather at a conference in Glasgow to mark the 50th anniversary of the laser.

The report said that last year 82 companies were working in the field of laser-enabled photonics in Scotland, employing 3,000 people.

It also argued that the sector was in a "strong position" to grow further.

The report was commissioned by a consortium of laser-based industry partners.

First demonstrated in 1960, the laser is now used in healthcare, defence, household electronics, manufacturing processes and reading checkout barcodes.

Speaking at the "national celebration" event at Glasgow Science Centre, Mr Mather said: "The laser is integral to modern industry - supporting high-value manufacturing, world-class research and highly skilled jobs.

"The 50 Years of Lasers in Scotland document highlights this sector's importance to the Scottish economy - with laser-enabled photonic sales contributing £660m last year."

The report's author, Jacqueline Hewett, said Scotland had a thriving laser industry that manufactured cutting-edge technology which was exported all over the world.

She added: "The country's flair for innovation, engineering and manufacturing ensures that some of today's most sophisticated lasers and laser-based systems are designed, developed and manufactured on its shores."

Keynote speakers at the conference in Glasgow, which was organised by Strathclyde University, included US Secretary of Energy Dr Steven Chu, who jointly won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997.

Two other Nobel physics laureates, Prof Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado and Prof Roy Glauber of Harvard University, also spoke at the event.

Strathclyde University's deputy principal, Prof Allister Ferguson, said: "Strathclyde and other Scottish universities have an active, innovative research base in lasers and produce a high calibre of graduates, who have extensive opportunities open to them through the high concentration of laser companies in Scotland.

"The participation of three Nobel physics laureates in our celebration is an endorsement of Scotland's academic base and thriving lasers industry."

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