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Light refraction from a beam of light Photonik | © P_Wei/

Photonics Industry in Germany

Germany is home to Europe’s largest photonics market. The German photonics industry stands for outstanding innovations worldwide.

Photonics, as a key technology, is a pacemaker for all decisive future topics such as mobility, digital health, climate protection, energy efficiency or sustainability. Germany’s photonics sector has developed to become one of the country’s most important future industries and a motor for innovation and growth. Optical and photonic technologies have enjoyed consistent growth in recent years – with new markets including augmented and virtual reality, digital health, autonomous driving, machine vision, and smart farming all creating new business opportunities. Find out why Germany satisfies the essential conditions for market success in one of the world’s most dynamic industry sectors.

The German Photonics Industry in Numbers

Germany boasts one of the world’s most thriving and innovative photonics sectors and ranks as Europe’s leading photonics nation with more than 40 percent of continental production.

In 2019, Germany's roughly 1,000 photonics manufacturers and their more than 160,000 employees generated sales of EUR 40.6 billion. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, sales in 2020 fell by around one percent to EUR 40.1 billion. The number of employees has increased to 161,000. An export quota rate of around 70 percent testifies to the international competitiveness of innovative photonics solutions made in Germany. It is also one of Germany’s most research-heavy and innovation-dependent sectors – with average company spending of around 10 percent of total revenue on research and development – and home to an impressive number of regional and national networks and clusters that help consolidate Germany’s international technological leadership. 

Latest Publication: Germany’s Photonics Industry

Fact Sheet: Photonics in Germany Fact Sheet: Photonics in Germany | © GTAI

Download our Photonics in Germany Fact Sheet for more information on the industry in Germany. The development of optical and photonic technologies has an important role to play in consolidating Germany's role as an international industry leader.

Find out more and download our latest publication "Germany's Photonics Industry" free of charge: 


Market Opportunities in Germany’s Photonics Industry

Germany’s optics and photonics sector is growing vigorously and attracting major foreign investment.

Increased levels of automation in passenger vehicles, light-based technologies in the health sector and the ongoing digitalization of industry are just some areas driving demand for advanced photonics solutions in application industries. Solutions in the core areas of production technology, Industrie 4.0, healthcare and optical components and parts for instance for future mobility, in which Germany has a strong global market position, account for around 60 percent of production value.

Advanced Manufacturing – Photonics 4.0

Photonic and optical technologies are also central to the ongoing digitalization of industrial production and form a key foundation to Germany’s Industrie 4.0 project. One of the highest-growth application areas of photonic technologies is process analytics. The use of optical sensors enable the optimization of products and production processes, avoids rejects and reduces the use of raw materials. Additionally, optical measurement technologies provide a significant contribution to operational safety. Photonic sensor technologies help thus to transform production systems and products into cyber-physical systems (CPS). Germany is seeking to become an integrated industry lead market and provider for Industrie 4.0 solutions – consolidating its reputation as the world’s factory outfitter and a country capable of meeting the challenges of the digital age.

Future Mobility – Automotive 4.0

Until not so long ago, photonics was integrated into the car only through lighting functions. However, the global auto industry is in a period of radical transformation due to the rise of e-mobility and connected and automated driving technology developments. German car manufacturers have been showing increasing interest in new technologies – especially photonics-based developments – in all areas: from powertrain, through lighting to driver assistance (ADAS) and vision systems (LIDAR). Germany is recognized the world over for its outstanding automotive industry and excellence in engineering. Germany is by some distance Europe’s leading production and sales market. The country’s world-class R&D infrastructure, complete industry value chain integration and highly qualified workforce create an internationally peerless automotive environment. It enables companies to develop cutting- edge technologies that perfectly address tomorrow’s mobility needs.

Medical Technology – Biophotonics

Photonics has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. The use of light-based technologies in the bio- and medical sciences – also known as biophotonics – can be used effectively for very early detection of diseases, with non-invasive imaging techniques or point-of-care applications. Biophotonics is also instrumental to the analysis of processes at the molecular level, giving a greater understanding of the origin of diseases, thereby supporting prevention and new treatments. Photonic technologies also play a major role in addressing the needs of Germany’s ageing society – covering everything from pacemakers, synthetic bones and endoscopes through to the micro-cameras used in in-vivo processes. German medical technology companies invest nine percent of their revenue and deploy 15 percent of their personnel in research and development. Germany is the most important manufacturer and developer of medical technologies in Europe and the world's third largest manufacturing nation with a share of about 10 percent of worldwide medical technology production. Close collaboration between science and industry has helped establish Germany's medical technology sector as an international landmark of quality, performance and safety standards.

Photonic World-Class Research in Germany

Germany is home to an impressive number of regional and national networks and clusters. The rapid proliferation of science and industry clusters can be attributed to the country’s advanced level of industrial diversity aligned to a sustained and forward-looking innovation policy.

OptecNet Deutschland

The German optics and photonics industry is concentrated within several clusters and industry associations. Regional clusters are organized in OptecNet Deutschland – the association of the German Regional Competence Networks for Optical Technologies. Founded in 2000 as an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), OptecNet Deutschland is the supraregional association of the seven regional competence networks. OptecNet’s mission is to support the optical technologies as key technologies for Germany.


Spectaris is the German industry association for the high-tech medium-sized business sector and representative body in the areas of medical technology, consumer optics, analytical, bio and laboratory technology as well as photonics. Spectaris pools the interests of around 400 member companies from Germany and their 300,000 strong workforce. Through its political activities, public relations and industry marketing, the association gives its members a voice, formulates new responsibilities and opens up new markets. This ensures the international competitiveness of German industry in these sectors and thus safeguards locations and jobs.

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