€1.1bn for a European photonics supply chain

€1.1bn for a European photonics supply chain

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

A €1.1bn project in the Netherlands aims to build a world-class supply chain for photonics chips with over 200 startups, research and volume manufacturing.

PhotonDelta is a cross-border ecosystem of photonic chip technology organisations that has raised the public and private investment to transform the Netherlands into the leader of the next generation of semiconductors. By 2030, it aims to have created an ecosystem with hundreds of companies, serving customers worldwide and a wafer production capacity of 100,000+ per year. 

Photonics has been of increasing interest across the industry for quantum computing, healthcare and communications. Last week data networking giant Juniper announced it was spinning out its technology into a joint venture with Synopsys using an open photonics process development kit (PDK) from Tower Semiconductor (although this is being bought by Intel), and a photonics centre was announced in Scotland for space and quantum R&D.

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The PhotonDelta investment for the Netherlands includes €470m from the National Growth Fund (Nationaal Groeifonds), while the rest is co-invested by various partners and stakeholders. It is part of the Dutch Government’s national plan to cement and expand the country’s position as a world leader in integrated photonics. 

The PhotonDelta ecosystem currently consists of 26 companies, 11 technology partners and 12 R&D partners. The organisation has jointly invested €171m in promising photonics companies including Smart Photonics, PhotonsFirst, Surfix, MicroAlign, Solmates and Effect Photonics. 

The programme will run for six years and will enable PhotonDelta and its partners to further invest in photonic startups and scaleups, expand production and research facilities, attract and train talent, drive adoption, and develop a world-class design library.

Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) integrate photonic functions into microchips to create smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices. PICs are currently used in the data and telecom industry to reduce the energy consumption per bit and increase speeds and with data and internet use expected to be around 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027, these provide a way to limit the impact on the climate.

“This investment is a game-changer. It will make the Netherlands the home of the next generation of semiconductors which will have a profound impact on the whole European tech industry,” said Ewit Roos, CEO at PhotonDelta.

 “The ongoing chip shortage highlights the pressing need for Europe to create its own production capabilities for strategic technologies. We will now be able to support hundreds of startups, researchers, producers and innovators to boost this industry that will be as impactful as the introduction of microelectronics a few decades ago,” he said.

“The Netherlands is considered a pioneer in the development of PIC technology, and thanks to the continuous support from the Dutch government, we have been able to build a full supply-chain around it that is globally recognised as a hotspot for photonic integration.

“Photonic chips are one of the most important technological breakthroughs of the last decade. Not only do they allow for the creation of devices that are faster, cheaper, more powerful and greener – they also enable radical new innovations like affordable point-of-care diagnostics or quantum computing to become a reality.”

PhotonDelta works with Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), University of Twente (UT), Delft University of Technology (TUD), Holst Centre, TNO, IMEC, PITC, CITC, Holst Centre, OnePlanet, Smart Photonics,Lionix International, Effect Photonics, MantiSpectra, PhotonFirst, Phix, and Bright Photonics. 

It also includes a strategic partnership with a foundry, and works with suppliers Bruco, ASML, Aixtron, Solmates, Chip Integration Technology Center (CITC), Etteplan, Tyndall in Ireland, Salland Engineering, IMS and MicroAlign 

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