Edinburgh based laser services specialist Photonic Solutions has seen increased demand, new staff hires, and new international partners onboarded in what has been a busy year for the company. Panoramic backed an Employee-Buy Out of the company in June 2017. Photonic Solutions distributes and services laser equipment for leading international manufacturers into academia and industry for research and industrial purposes.
With travel opening following Covid we were delighted to attend Photonex (Glasgow) in October and the Quantum Technologies show in London in November. We will also be heading to major international conferences with Munich for Laser World of Photonics in April 2022. The conferences are a great opportunity to meet with customers and showcase new technologies that we are representing.
Covid challenges in the last year mainly resulted in being unable to visit customers, which is key to understanding their needs, but we responded by finding new methods of engaging with them. This saw a heavy focus on video conferencing, which has now become the norm and an incredibly efficient way to quickly engage with customers. We also heightened engagement through digital platforms to generate an improved customer experience. Thankfully visits are now starting to return. During Covid many laboratories were closed and no one was allowed access so our service team is currently working through a backlog of planned maintenance – which is critical to keeping our customers’ experiments running.
In September, we were delighted to become the UK distributor for Swiss based Zurich Instruments. Zurich manufacture a diverse range of cutting-edge instrumentation that focusses on measuring very difficult to detect phenomena. Their lock-in amplifier technology can separate out very hard to detect signals that are obscured in a noisy background. These products have applications in spectroscopy and quantum technologies, which is currently a hot topic in the UK and worldwide.
Growing the team
As our market reach has been increasing, we were delighted to appoint a new marketing executive in November to help bring our technology to a wider range of customers. Angela Robb joins the team bringing her extensive marketing experience, also coming from a technical engineering background in her previous roles. Angela started officially in January 2022.
Impact of covid and supply chain issues
Several suppliers experienced disruption to supply chains over the year. In our industry this was due to material shortages, in particular microchips caused increased demand for electronic equipment as well as reduced capacity at manufacturers. We took a proactive approach to navigate these issues for our customers, in some cases sourcing alternative providers for components, and holding additional inventory has helped to mitigate delays.
Outlook for the Photonics sector
2021 has been a record year for Photonic Solutions with double digit EBITDA growth. This is due to our strong customer base with improving funding rates in the UK for new research equipment. In addition, some of our customers are directly involved in the fight against Covid, for researching vaccine development. Industry reports indicate continued growth in the Photonics sector. This is because Photonics is such an enabling technology. Everything from vaccine development, space-based technology, industrial and automotive production lines through to handheld electronics and life sciences all involve photonics.
Quantum technology will be a big investment area for the UK which will increase the need for laser systems and photonics products for the next decade. The UK’s increased focus on science post Brexit will also provide opportunities for increased funding levels into research, which all points towards a positive long term outlook for the sector.