Smart materials and photonics

We have smart phones, smart watches, smart cities and now – smart materials. What are those? Materials that can listen, perceive and understand? Not quite. But they can sense and react. Smart materials are materials that respond to changes in their environment and then undergo a material property change. They react to environmental conditions and stimuli be it mechanical, chemical, electrical or magnetic signals. Sounds awesome, but where to use them? 

Smart materials, technologies and engineering are particularly important for the transformation of Latvia's economy, creation of new and innovative technological solutions and the development of high value added products and services. We know that smart materials open new possibilities. Photonics and smart materials sector serves as a basis for the development of other sectors, providing necessary components and systems (including the precision medicine, ICT, smart cities and green energy, bioeconomy). 

To make the best use of smart materials cooperation between industry, science and the national authority is essential. Luckily, Latvia has been scientific hub from a historic perspective with long-rooted cooperation between academic, scientific and industrial minds. Today science is linked with universities, thus institutes are geographically closely located, creating science clusters. Latvia has proven that it can be the leader of the Baltic States in scientific excellence, boosted by a well-targeted distribution of funding to scientific institutions. 

Main subsectors

  • Functional materials for photonics and electronics; 
  • Thin layers and coatings; 
  • Equipment, devices and systems.

Fast facts

  • World leading high-impact research and more than 40 years of experience in delivering state-of-the-art solutions for the needs of the industry.
  • Necessary infrastructure (technology, policy, researchers, know-how etc.) for high impact investment and result delivery in developing deep tech innovations. 
  • International expertise and collaboration on innovation: Attracted 31 MEUR investment within H2020 call.

Industry leaders

  • RD Alfa Microelectronics develops and manufactures high reliability and radiation hardened microelectronics components for aеrоspace and defense equipment. Partners – European space agency.
  • HansaMatrix is electronic system manufacturing, partners – Facebook, Apple, VW, Boeing.
  • LightSpace Technologies are global leaders in real-time multi-plane volumetric 3D image display technologies.
  • EuroLCDs offers world’s fastest optical shutter technology, smectic liquid crystal switchable smart glass.
  • Groglass is one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of anti-reflective coatings, partners – Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Louvre Museum Paris, Forbidden City Beijing, State Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg and others. Mona Lisa painting is protected by Groglass developed anti-reflective glass.
  • LightGuide Optics is a world’s leading provider of fiber optic products, optical fiber probes for laser medicine, optical fibers for UV, VIS or IR range. Light Guide Optics produces more than half of worlds produced instruments used in urology.
  • CeramOptec creates customised solutions in fiber optic technology, medical Original Equipment Manufacturer.
  • Schaeffler Baltic offers more than 10 000 different products, unique solutions in coating materials and process, including nano-coatings, partners – IBM, Siemens, BMW, Ohio State University.
  • Sidrabe has more than 50 years of excellence in developing unique thin film technologies, partners – NASA.

Industry statistics

  • Silicon Valley of the north? Yes, you can call us that as Latvia is ranked with the fifth fastest internet worldwide (OECD countries). High-speed fibre internet connections make 69% of all fixed Internet connections.
  • In Latvia, our legacy is built upon previous generations, with Riga having been a technology centre for centuries. No wonder Latvia has world leading high-impact research and more than 100 years of experience in delivering state-of-the-art solutions for the needs of the industry.
  • Today, smart materials are one of Latvia’s research priorities, and the cooperation between the industry and scientists is very active. Latvia has necessary infrastructure (technology, policy, researchers, know-how etc.) for high impact investment and result delivery in developing deep tech innovations, such as Institute of Solid State Physics platform for business owners – MATERIZE a one stop solution to link business and science. 
  • There is an enormous potential for the science and industry of smart materials in Latvia also because our country has international expertise and collaboration on innovation: we attracted investment within H2020 call.
  • In Latvia, the scientific legacy is built upon previous generations, with Riga having been a technology centre for centuries. So we are used to being a scientific excellence leader in the Baltic’s, delivering R&D platform for local and foreign investors.
  • A cherry on top of this huge cake of opportunities and benefits – Latvia is the leader of the Baltic States in employment in fast-growing companies.

Employment and education 

  • From electrical to mechanical and materials engineering, developments in smart materials have become increasingly widespread across the construction, chemical, and many other industries. Nowadays, smart materials are replacing insufficient traditional resources and becoming the future of hot commodities. There are 2470 companies operating in the sector, with a total employment of 29,3 thousand people (2017).
  • One of the main driving forces to invest in this industry is the skilled and motivated workforce and scientists available in Latvia. Also, Latvia’s labour costs are very competitive (for example, estimated four to five times lower than in Germany). 
  • Higher education and research organisations equip students with a knowledge base and skills that act as a solid foundation for further careers in research. Latvia's largest universities have numerous study programmes within different levels representing engineering and natural sciences. The total number of engineering and natural sciences programme graduates at Latvia's largest universities is 3019, that is 41% of all immatriculated students graduate (2018).
  • The business world needs scientists and vice versa, therefore universities provide science clusters that makes Riga geographically and financially well targeted science hub.

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