Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has recently received a visit from Nobel Prize laureate Professor William Daniel Phillips, famous for his breakthrough in using lasers to cool atoms. The city has been renowned as a leading hub for laser technology since the sector’s early start in the ‘60s. Today, the laser industry exports around 80% of its production abroad, cooperating with organizations like NASA and IBM.
October 10, 2022. Lithuania has been globally recognized as a leader in laser technology. However, the laser sector in its capital city, Vilnius — which has more than 50 years of experience — is a key force in both scientific and industrial laser technology. By offering solutions to organizations like NASA and IBM, Lithuania’s laser experts continue to advance science and drive the industry’s spectacular yearly development.
Vilnius’ expertise in laser technology has not gone unnoticed by the international community of scientists, which lead to Professor William Daniel Phillips — Nobel laureate in Physics, Distinguished professor of the University of Maryland, and Fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the United States of America — visiting Vilnius from the 2nd to the 5th of October.
Prof. Phillips noted that there is a “great deal of expertise” concentrated in non-linear optics in the city of Vilnius, both in the study of the fundamental physics involved and the production of commercial equipment.
“There is definitely an industry here in Vilnius and I’ve been impressed by the symbiotic relationship present between the fundamental research going on in the university and the creation of industrial products in the same city. There is a kind of flow of students from university into the industry, which is beneficial to everyone,” he explained.
The Professor’s visit to Vilnius is not coincidental — the city’s booming laser industry is famous for its close ties to academia and groundbreaking innovation.
Vilnius’ history of world-class lasers
Lithuania has produced multiple laser solutions that are unique in the global market since it fired its first laser in 1966. SYLOS — one of the most potent laser systems in the whole world — was constructed by two significant Vilnius-based laser manufacturers, Ekspla and Light Conversion in 2019. In addition, NASA, CERN, and other well-known businesses, including IBM, Hitachi, Toyota, and Mitsubishi, employ Lithuanian laser equipment.
As a result, laser technology produced in Vilnius continues to display steady growth — around 15% over the last five years — and generates EUR 13.8 billion in revenue annually, according to data from Versli Lietuva. Around 80% of laser industry products are exported abroad, with top clients such as NASA, CERN, and other well-known businesses, including IBM, Hitachi, Toyota, and Mitsubishi on the receiving end.
Today, the laser ecosystem in Vilnius comprises over 40 companies that employ over a thousand specialists. The Lithuanian Laser Association unites such institutions to develop photonic and laser technologies, providing them with a platform to share knowledge and experiences. In addition, employees of companies in the Sunrise Valley of Vilnius have access to research facilities as well as technical support and consultations through The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) incubator — the first of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe.
Furthermore, academic institutions like Vilnius University, the Science and Technology Park of the Institute of Physics, and The Center for Physical Sciences and Technology all carry out applied and fundamental research for the laser sector and provide support services to organizations in the field.