Lithuania's laser focus attracts new investment.
Lithuania is flexing its muscles as a small but potent technology hub. Tonbo Imaging, an India-based developer of advanced imaging and sensor systems, has selected Kaunas, Lithuania, to establish a development center. The new facility will create 50 specialist jobs and boost the Eastern European country’s credentials in photonics: the science and technology of light, including light generation through lasers.
In fact, Lithuania is well-established in the field, which its research institutions have been studying for more than 50 years, and continues to build on its strength through strong programs in physics and engineering. Every sixth student in Lithuania studies either physics, engineering or computer science. According to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2017, Lithuania ranks second globally in technical skills prevalence.
Lithuanian companies, both new and mature, make up the core of the local laser industry, notes Virginijus Sinkevičius, Lithuania’s minister of economy. “If we look at the current ecosystem,” he says, “we also see a strong synergy of these businesses working in such fields as short and ultrashort pulse lasers and optomechanical components with the physics departments of the main Lithuanian universities and other research bodies.”
More than 80% of Lithuania’s photonics products are exported, primarily to Europe, the US and Asia; customers of Lithuanian laser manufacturers include NATO and the US Department of Defense.
Nine out of 10 lasers used in universities around the world are made in Lithuania, Sinkevičius says, by Lithuanian companies such as Altechna, Light Conversion and Brolis. “Foreign direct investment projects in the field are still rather rare,” he adds. “The decision of Tonbo Imaging to set up in Lithuania is a signal to the global industry that the country’s photonics cluster can accommodate more outside players.”
The new investment may therefore augur a broadening of Lithuania’s high-tech industry. “Impact will be seen in other fields as well,” Sinkevičius says.