Interview with Juha Purmonen from Photonics Finland

  • Juha Purmonen - Executive Director

GoPhotonics interviewed Juha Purmonen, the Executive Director of Photonics Finland. Juha Purmonen is a business development expert and a catalyst for innovation ecosystems, boasting over 15 years of professional experience. Throughout his career, he has assumed diverse roles, including executive director, consultant, development manager, and entrepreneur. Currently, his focus lies in the realm of Photonics, where he actively engages in numerous international and national projects. His extensive background spans collaborations with both rapidly growing tech startups and large multinational high-tech enterprises, showcasing a strong international perspective and a wealth of experience working within multicultural teams.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of Photonics Finland and its mission as an organization?

Juha Purmonen: The history of Photonics Finland started in 1996 when the Finnish Optics Society was first established as a research association. In 2014 Photonics Finland was re-launched as a cluster together with 19 members to provide better service and visibility for emerging photonics industry and academia members. 

Photonics Finland was founded in 2014 as a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the photonics industry in Finland. Its mission is to promote collaboration, innovation, and growth in the field of photonics. The organization serves as a platform for bringing together academics, industry professionals, and other stakeholders to foster networking, knowledge sharing, and the development of photonics technologies.

Q. How does Photonics Finland plan to contribute to the growth and development of the photonics industry in Finland?

Juha Purmonen: Photonics Finland aims to contribute to the growth and development of the photonics industry in Finland through various means. These include organizing events, workshops, and conferences to facilitate knowledge exchange, supporting research and development projects, fostering collaboration between academia and industry, and advocating for policies that promote the growth of the photonics sector in the country. By providing a supportive ecosystem and resources, Photonics Finland helps companies and researchers innovate and thrive in the photonics field.

The majority of the photonics companies in Finland are very export-oriented and Photonics Finland organizes the Finnish Pavilion at global trade fairs, such as Photonics West in San Francisco, and Laser World of Photonics in Munich. This is a turnkey service for companies to have their booth with great visibility among other Photonics Finland member companies. 

Q. What are some of the key initiatives or projects that Photonics Finland is currently involved in, and what impact do you hope these initiatives will have on the photonics industry in Finland?

Juha Purmonen: Photonics Finland is currently engaged in initiatives such as European projects together with other photonics clusters, which aim to boost the competitiveness of the industry and foster new business in the field of photonics. These projects are anticipated to have a positive impact on the photonics industry in Finland by fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations, driving technological advancements, and creating a fertile ground for new business opportunities in emerging photonics applications.

Q. Can you tell us how Photonics Finland facilitates collaboration between academics, industry, and other partners in the photonics sector?

Juha Purmonen: Photonics Finland facilitates collaboration through regular events, seminars, and networking opportunities where academics, industry professionals, and other stakeholders can interact and share their expertise. The organization also supports joint research and development projects, encouraging partnerships that combine academic insights with practical industry knowledge. Additionally, Photonics Finland serves as a platform for information exchange, enabling members to stay updated on the latest developments and trends in the field. Photonics Finland also helps companies find customers and partners. In addition, information about various markets, projects, and opportunities is shared through Photonics Finland.

Also, Photonics Finland is working in close partnership with The Flagship of Photonics Research and Innovation PREIN, the initiative that brings together the main actors of Finnish photonics research to develop a new generation of light-based technologies.

Q. Finland is known for its strong photonics research and industry. Can you discuss any specific projects or collaborations you have been involved in that highlight your contribution to the field?

Juha Purmonen: Photonics Finland has been involved in several European projects such as Photonics4Industry, PIMAP4Sustainable, Carla360, DeepSupport, PhotonHub Europe, and BestPhorm21 together other Photonics clusters in Europe and of course companies. These collaborations exemplify our commitment to fostering innovation, knowledge transfer, and commercialization of photonics technologies in Finland and Europe.

Q. Can you tell us about any specific photonics technologies or applications that you find particularly interesting or promising?

Juha Purmonen: Photonics technologies related to optical communications, biophotonics, laser manufacturing, and other emerging fields hold significant promise. In the realm of optical communications, advancements in fiber optics and high-speed data transmission are paving the way for faster and more reliable internet connections. Biophotonics, on the other hand, combines optics and life sciences, enabling non-invasive medical diagnostics, imaging, and therapies. This has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by offering more precise and less invasive treatment options.

In the area of laser manufacturing, the precision and versatility of lasers are driving innovations in industries like manufacturing, aerospace, and electronics. The potential benefits range from more efficient production processes to the development of new materials with enhanced properties. Moreover, technologies such as Extended Reality (VR, AR, MR / XR) are leveraging photonics to create immersive and interactive experiences across various sectors, from entertainment to training and education.

Key photonics competencies in Finland:

1. Optical Sensing and Imaging: Finland has developed strong expertise in optical sensing and imaging technologies. These competencies find applications in fields such as medical imaging, remote sensing, and industrial quality control. The ability to capture and analyze light signals enables the development of sophisticated and accurate measurement systems.

2. Micro- and Nanophotonics: Micro- and nanophotonics involves the manipulation of light on incredibly small scales, allowing for the creation of compact and highly efficient devices. Finland's proficiency in this area contributes to the development of miniaturized sensors, high-density optical communication components, and advancements in nanomaterials for photonics applications.

3. Lasers and Fiber Optics: Lasers and fiber optics are fundamental to numerous photonics applications. Finland's strength in this area contributes to the development of advanced laser systems for various applications, from manufacturing to medical procedures. High-quality fiber optics play a crucial role in enabling high-speed data transmission and telecommunications networks.

4. Extended Reality (VR, AR, MR / XR): The fusion of photonics and extended reality technologies opens up new possibilities for immersive experiences. Finland's involvement in this competence aligns with the global trend of leveraging virtual, augmented, and mixed reality for applications in gaming, training, design, and more.

Collectively, these photonics competencies showcase Finland's capacity to contribute to groundbreaking technologies with the potential to reshape industries and improve various aspects of modern life.

Q. The photonics industry is constantly evolving. How does Photonics Finland stay ahead of the curve and adapt to emerging trends and technologies?

Juha Purmonen: Photonics Finland remains at the forefront of emerging trends and technologies through a multifaceted approach that embraces proactive engagement, knowledge sharing, and international collaboration. The organization's commitment to staying ahead of the curve is exemplified by:

1. Proactive Engagement: Photonics Finland fosters continuous dialogue and collaboration among its members, researchers, industry leaders, and experts within the photonics sector. By actively participating in discussions and initiatives related to technological advancements and industry shifts, the organization gains insights that guide its strategies and actions.

2. Collaboration and Networking: The organization hosts events, workshops, and seminars that bring together stakeholders from various domains of photonics. These gatherings provide a platform for exchanging ideas, sharing best practices, and discussing emerging trends. By facilitating connections among professionals, Photonics Finland creates an environment conducive to fostering innovation and adaptation.

3. Monitoring Global Developments: Photonics Finland keeps a close watch on global advancements in photonics. By staying informed about breakthroughs and shifts occurring in other regions, the organization can identify potential opportunities and challenges that may impact the Finnish photonics industry. 

4. Knowledge Dissemination: Through its events, publications, and digital platforms, Photonics Finland disseminates the latest insights, research findings, and technological updates. This information empowers its members to stay informed about the newest trends and technologies, helping them anticipate changes and make informed decisions. 

Photonics Industry in Finland:

- 300 companies: The photonics ecosystem in Finland comprises a diverse range of companies contributing to various photonics applications and technologies.

- 6,000 employees: The industry employs a substantial workforce with expertise spanning from research and development to manufacturing and commercialization.

- 2 billion euro market: The photonics sector in Finland generates significant economic value through its contributions to various industries and applications.

- 18% annual growth: The consistent annual growth rate reflects the sector's dynamism and potential for further expansion.

By leveraging these strategies and strengths, Photonics Finland remains adaptable to emerging trends and technologies, ensuring that its members are equipped to embrace innovation and contribute to the evolution of the photonics industry. 

Q. What are some of the main challenges or opportunities that the photonics industry faces in Finland, and how does your organization work towards addressing or capitalizing on them?

Juha Purmonen: The photonics industry in Finland encounters several challenges and opportunities, and Photonics Finland is actively engaged in addressing and capitalizing on them: 


Workforce Availability: The demand for skilled professionals across all sectors of photonics is substantial. There is a particularly acute shortage of optical designers. To tackle this challenge, Photonics Finland has developed various initiatives. The organization operates a job board website, facilitating connections between job seekers and photonics companies. Additionally, they've introduced specialized training programs like the "Photonics Top Expert" training and collaborated with member universities to establish new educational tracks, such as the new photonics-oriented engineering program at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF).

Infrastructure and Facilities: The photonics industry requires dedicated facilities to manufacture and develop photonics products. These facilities include cleanrooms, laboratories, and production spaces. Photonics Finland advocates for the creation of photonics-compatible spaces and highlights the needs of its members in its communication efforts. This emphasis on infrastructure helps promote an environment conducive to innovation and research.

Funding: Funding is crucial for the development and internationalization of photonics companies. Photonics Finland collaborates closely with organizations like Business Finland to secure funding opportunities for its members. This collaborative approach has yielded positive results, enabling photonics businesses to access the resources needed for growth and innovation.


Collaboration and Innovation: Photonics Finland recognizes the potential for collaboration and innovation within the photonics sector. The organization's flagship initiative, the Photonics Research and Innovation Flagship (PREIN), plays a vital role in fostering collaboration between academia and industry to address challenges and explore new opportunities. 

Global Growth: The photonics industry's global market presents significant growth prospects. Photonics Finland actively supports its members in expanding internationally by facilitating participation in global events, connecting companies with potential partners, and providing insights into international market trends.

Photonics Finland addresses challenges such as workforce availability, infrastructure, and funding through proactive measures, partnerships, and targeted initiatives. By doing so, the organization helps to create an environment where the photonics industry can thrive, capitalize on opportunities, and contribute to the growth and innovation of Finland's photonics landscape.

Q. What are your future goals and aspirations for Photonics Finland, and how do you plan to lead the organization towards achieving those goals?

Juha Purmonen: Our future vision for Photonics Finland is underpinned by several strategic initiatives aimed at ensuring the organization's continued growth, impact, and relevance within the photonics sector:

1. Strategy Evolution: We are currently in the process of updating Photonics Finland's strategy. This update involves synthesizing insights garnered from our members with global market intelligence. By aligning our strategy with the ever-evolving landscape of photonics, we intend to pinpoint actionable areas of focus that can drive growth and innovation.

2. Service Enhancement: Enhancing the services provided by Photonics Finland is a key aspect of our future trajectory. We recognize the importance of providing value-added services to our members, such as access to job boards, specialized training, networking events, and collaboration opportunities. This commitment to service quality aims to bolster the growth and capabilities of our members.

3. Resource and Funding Sustainability: Securing sufficient resources and funding is integral to our future endeavors. While Finland does not yet have its own cluster strategy or dedicated funding for the photonics industry, we acknowledge the significance of increasing our membership base and diversifying our revenue streams. This approach will empower us to invest in initiatives that drive our mission forward. 

4. International Engagement: We envision Photonics Finland as a gateway for our members to the global photonics community. By facilitating international collaboration, participation in global events, and partnerships with international organizations, we aim to position our members as prominent contributors to the global photonics ecosystem.

5. Advocacy and Policy Influence: As we move forward, we recognize the importance of advocating for the photonics industry at the national level. While challenges like funding may persist, we are committed to influencing policies that support the growth of photonics in Finland. Our advocacy efforts will focus on fostering an environment conducive to innovation, research, and business development.

Leadership Approach:

To lead Photonics Finland towards these future goals and aspirations, our approach involves: 

Collaborative Decision-Making: We value input from our diverse membership base. Engaging our members in strategic decisions ensures that our actions are aligned with their needs and aspirations.

Innovation and Adaptation: We remain agile and open to change, adapting our strategies based on market dynamics and emerging opportunities. Embracing innovation allows us to remain relevant and impactful.

Partnerships and Alliances: Collaboration with universities, research institutes, governmental bodies, and international organizations enhances our collective impact. These partnerships expand our reach and provide valuable resources to our members.

Project Development: We prioritize staying informed about global photonics trends, best practices, and technological advancements. This knowledge empowers us to guide our members effectively. As a practical action, European projects are a very good tool to maintain the latest information in the organization. 

In essence, our commitment to strategic evolution, service enhancement, sustainable resourcing, international engagement, and policy advocacy forms the bedrock of our leadership approach. By embracing these principles, we aim to steer Photonics Finland towards a future of growth, collaboration, and innovation within the dynamic realm of photonics.

About Photonics Finland

Photonics Finland is a technology cluster that drives forward the photonics industry and research in Finland by connecting Finnish photonics companies, universities, research institutes, experts, students, and public authorities. Photonics Finland has over 250 individual and 118 organizational members. They support the development of new business and research opportunities and helps realize the full potential of photonics in industry and society in Finland in sectors like health care, energy efficiency, safety, manufacturing, and sustainability. Photonics Finland is the single point of contact for the whole photonics ecosystem in Finland.

Click here to visit Photonics Finland's Profile on Gophotonics.