European photonics firms seek €4.25 billion support package

European photonics firms seek €4.25 billion support package

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By Peter Clarke

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A delegation from European photonic chip companies have presented a plan to European Commission officials that calls for €4.25 billion in tax-payer support.

CEOs from eight of Europe’s integrated photonics companies presented European Commission officials with a plan to build a resilient European supply chain for photonic ICs.

The plan was put forwarded at a summit meeting held in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, with the support package intended to be spread out over eight years. The money would help build-out a photonic IC manufacturing ecosystem in Europe and ensure smaller companies have access to manufacturing for small volumes and test runs.

The delegation took the position that if the money is not found there is a risk that Europe will miss out on an opportunity and be forced to rely on Asia and the US for the technology, the report said.

“Currently, the EU has a vibrant and growing integrated photonics industry, however, without volume manufacturing, testing and packaging capacity we are incredibly vulnerable to global events and the policies of competitor countries,” Reuters reported  Johan Feenstra, CEO of Smart Photonics, said at the summit.

The proposal makes a number of recommendations including:

  • Provide over €2 billion in incentives for industrial scale InP and SiN photonic IC manufacturing capacity in Europe.
  • Provide EU SMEs access to industrial photonic test and experimentation facilities that partly mirror commercial lines, with the latest commercial wafer processing equipment and tools, at the relevant industry standard wafer sizes.
  • Establish an industrial photonic IC ‘manufacturing supply chain’ resilience fund of €200 million to support the investments needed to strengthen linkages and minimise vulnerabilities.
  • Provide a €360 million fund to stimulate application development through offering design tape-outs, leading to industrial photonic design IP creation and validation based on hardware testing.
  • Promote and incentivise collaboration amongst vertical clusters and the European photonic IC ecosystem.

The European Union has previously designated photonics as one of several key technologies for the future and the topic is included for potential funding under the €43 billion European Chips Act. However, the focus has been on encouraging investment in European manufacturing of automotive and industrial chips and potentially more advanced chips for high-performance computing and AI.

These initiatives have been based on semiconductor electronics with the risk that more innovative but, so far, less commercial photonic circuits could be neglected.

Smart Photonics BV (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) is is a pure-play foundry for indium-phosphide photonics semiconductors. The company was founded in March 2012 as a spin-off from Technical University Eindhoven.

In July 2023 the company announced it had secured €100 million (about US$110 million) in funding from investors ASML, NXP Semiconductors and VDL Groep as well as financial institutions ING, BOP Impact Ventures and Deep Tech Fund. In addition the Dutch government said it would provide €60 million under the PhotonDelta project of the National Growth Fund.

Smart Photonics intended to use the funds to develop manufacturing capability and process design kits (PDKs).

The eight companies and organizations represented are:

  • X-Fab
  • Smart Photonics
  • Aixtron SE
  • PHIX Photonics Assembly
  • VLC Photonics
  • Almae Technologies
  • Ligentec
  • PhotonDelta

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Intel sells silicon photonics line to Jabil

TSMC teams with Nvidia, Broadcom on silicon photonics

Rockley Photonics emerges from Chapter 11, raises $35m

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