OTTAWA — A memorandum of understanding between Ontario’s photonics association and its national Irish counterpart will strengthen cross-Atlantic research networks and allow Canadian and Irish companies to better capitalize on a new $220-billion global market, according to Irish Deputy Prime Minister

Mary Harney.

“This provides the framework to allow us to develop, collaborate and cooperate with each other,” Harney said following the MoU’s official signing by heads of the Irish Photonics Association (IPA) and Photonics Research Ontario (PRO) in Ottawa Wednesday.

“Maybe Irish companies can partner (with) Canadian companies to explore opportunities in North America,” said Harney. “Canadian companies can form alliances or licensing arrangements with Irish companies and explore the opportunities in Europe.”

The memorandum of understanding, which is aimed at facilitating networks between the two country’s photonics industries, was signed in the presence of Harney, who is also Ireland’s minister of for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Along with 17 Irish photonics and software companies, Harney is on a trade mission that has already stopped in Toronto to meet with members of the financial sector.

“One (of our) companies has successfully done a business deal with the Bank of Montreal,” said Harney. “Other companies are in an advanced stage of negotiating business with some financial services operators in Toronto.”

The Toronto leg of the visit concentrated on forging links between Canadian financial institutions and Irish financial software developers. The Ottawa leg has focused on photonics, an industry that is worth an estimated $220 billion worldwide. The capital city’s photonics cluster comprises 70 per cent of the Canadian photonics industry.

Dan Flinter, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, a delegate of the trade mission, said the trip has gone extremely well.

“I’ve been hugely encouraged by the response (from companies in Toronto and Ottawa),” he said. “During the course of the last 24 hours, we’ve had six Irish companies here in Ottawa and they’ve had between six and eight appointments with (Ottawa) companies on their research activities in this area.”

Rory Casey, chairman of the Irish Photonics Association, added the MoU “confirms that we’re moving in the right direction.”

“A lot of the (meetings with Ottawa companies) are informal,” he said. “It’s the first visit, but hopefully they’ll translate into purchase orders, and we’ll be able to put a dollar amount on it.”


Photonics is the technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy that deploy photons instead of electrons. A photon computer replaces electronic circuits, which process data serially, by photonic circuits capable of parallel processing. Consequently, such a computer operates with much greater speed and power.

“Photonics is used in virtually everything from medicines, to consumer products to communications, military, from the lab to the manufacturing process,” said Harney, likening photonics to the semiconductor industry 15 years ago.

“Electronics was the technology of the last century,” added Gerald Lynch, president and CEO of Photonics Research Ontario. “Photonics is the technology of this century. We’ve all learned the lessons through the semiconductor industry, how things have involved. We’re picking up on that and asking how we do things better, faster and cheaper using photons rather than electrons.”

Harney said that up until now Ireland has focused its attention on the U.S. when a new industry comes to the fore. “We believe the Canadian market has been ignored,” she said. “Canada like Ireland is dominated by a much bigger neighbour, and sometimes people don’t see the opportunities in the smaller neighbour.”

Canada, and Ottawa in particular, is a leader in photonics, she added. “You have 150 companies. When our fledgling industry looked globally, for example at best practices, Ottawa seemed to be the best place to learn from.”

Flinter said the added advantage of partnering with Canadian firms is to gain access into the North American market and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Likewise, when Canadian companies partner with Irish counterparts, they can gain valuable business ties within the European Union.

Irish photonics companies participating in the trade mission include Fibrepulse, Firecomms, Intune Technologies, Plasma Ireland, and Pxit. Software companies include AEP Systems, Voice Vault, KineMatik and nine others. KineMatik CEO Richard O’Rourke said Wednesday that he met with Ken Lawless, executive director of the Ottawa Life Sciences Council to discuss the convergence of biotechnology and information technology.

While in Toronto, KineMatik announced a partnership with Open Text to form a collaborative research network for biotech research institutions in Ireland.


The trade mission wraps up in Quebec City while Harney will spend Thursday in New York City to meet members of the Ireland U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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