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Photonics in the South West

The South West is geared up to support the UK’s transport decarbonisation strategy through the design and integration of photonics in connected and autonomous vehicles.

The region is a world-leading cluster for robust, resilient, reliable photonics and microelectronics technologies. Here companies can access a unique capability in the design, manufacture and testing of solutions for the highest reliability, failure-intolerant applications.


South West

Investment type:

Foreign direct investment


Zero emission vehicles, Jet zero and green ships, Aerospace and jet zero

Matt Ashworth

Matt Ashworth

Head, Investment Propositions

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Sector and market opportunity

The South West is primed to support the integration of critical light and electronics-based solutions demanded by the global connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) industry across land, sea and air. Companies can exploit the unique strengths in robust and resilient photonics and microelectronics offered in the region.

Growth prospects

The CAV revolution will expand the UK’s position in the global automotive, aerospace and marine markets, and the new technologies required specifically for CAVs including sensors and sensor systems will be a fundamental part in driving this sector forward sustainably.


With its position at the heart of the south coast marine cluster, the South West is well positioned to supply the sensors and sensor systems needed by the 107 billion GBP global autonomous shipping industry.


Exeter airport provides flights to major cities within the UK and Europe, with over 25 destinations. Bournemouth, Bristol, Newquay and Southampton Airports are also within easy reach.

Road connections to the Midlands in 2.5 hours and London in 3.5 hours.

Fast and frequent rail links between London, the Midlands and beyond.

The region provides valuable global supply chain and deployment support and is accessible through 6 strategically located ports in the South West.

Local talent and skills

3,125+ employees in the photonics sector.

2 world class universities - University of Exeter and University of Plymouth, offering courses in the field of photonics and microelectronics.

Research and expertise

Access to the Electronics and Photonics Innovation Centre (EPIC) an 8 million GBP centre with modern labs and offices and technical capability to support R&D, design and new product development.

The Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre offers specialist support in Electron microscopy including a full analytical service in addition to electron microscopy data capture.

Region Spotlight
South of England


The region is home to 21 million people. It offers opportunities across a wide range of sectors from nuclear and aerospace, to life science and new technologies. There are vibrant clusters of expertise spanning 5G, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

View all investment opportunities in South of England

Enabling clean growth

The advanced vehicle assistance systems market is forecasted to grow to 70.5 billion GBP by 2025.

Automotive LiDAR adoption is valued at 273 billion GBP, and this is forecasted to grow to 6.4 billion GBP by 2028.

Local and national government support

The region has grants available designed to support inward investors in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

EPIC offers a start-up location package for investors including rent free periods for mid-term and long leases, a fund for foreign owned SMEs and a dedicated sector focussed hi-tech business support service.

Success stories

Sonardyne International

Sonardyne is a global provider of underwater acoustic, inertial, optical and sonar technology for a wide range of marine industries.

Their Plymouth base of operations located in Turnchapel comprises of office and training space, mechanical workshop, electronics laboratory, as well as visitor accommodation. The building also has its own slipway and pier.

Effect Photonics

Effect Photonics BV design and develop high speed optical components for communication systems and applications enabling more widespread access to the internet.

Their advanced manufacturing facility is based at the University of Plymouth, conveniently situated to provide access to the resources utilised by the well-established Hi-Tech cluster of companies and expertise locally based there.

Silicon Sensing

Silicon Sensing Systems is a world leader in the supply of high-performance MEMS-based inertial sensors, systems and foundry services. It is headquartered in Plymouth, UK.

Their products can be found on some of the world’s major automotive autonomous platforms, as well as in many other commercial and industrial applications ranging from subsea through to space.

Other opportunities

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