236 million for promising integrated photonics technology

Integrated photonics is the technology of microchips that work with light instead of electricity and are therefore more accurate, faster and reliable than conventional chips. Through this broad cooperation PhotonDelta wants to give the Netherlands a world-leading position and bring photonics to the market.

Scientifically, economically and socially interesting

Integrated photonic chips work with light particles (photons) instead of electricity. This makes them not only more accurate and faster but also more economical and reliable than conventional chips. The technology has many useful applications: cheaper and more economical data centers, 5G, low-cost and accurate visibility technology of self-propelled vehicles (LIDAR), highly sensitive sensors to measure, for example, deformations in aircraft wings or bridges, and small and affordable medical scanners. These applications are not only commercially interesting, but also contribute to solving societal challenges such as affordable care. The market for integrated photonics is therefore expected to double, as in recent years, every 2.5 years.

The basis for PhotonDelta was laid at the end of 2015. At that time, TU/e, the province of Noord-Brabant, the BOM development agency and Brainport Development, together with a number of companies from the Eindhoven region, set up the ”PhotonDelta” project with a subsidy from the European OpZuid subsidy program. PhotonDelta soon grew into a national initiative for integrated photonics, to which other knowledge institutions, provinces and companies joined. In July 2018, PhotonDelta presented a strategic plan to Mona Keijzer Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

New EU million investment in TU/e photonics project

Next month, a new European project will start in which the Netherlands is strongly represented via PhotonDelta. The project, called InPulse, has four Dutch industry participants and is led by TU Eindhoven. This is an investment of more than 17 million euros, which represents a major one from the European Horizon 2020 program. InPulse is mainly focused on the business development side of photonics.

With the PhotonDelta partnership, the Netherlands is leading the way in the development of photonics. Two weeks ago, the start of a crucial European project, led by TU Eindhoven and with the Netherlands as its main focus, underlines this. This project (OIP4NWE, budget of €14 million), supported by the European Regional Development Fund (Interreg), is developing the next generation of production technology.

Both projects – OIP4NWE and InPulse – share the same need to lower or remove barriers for small innovative companies to develop and market photonic products.

The Dutch participants in InPulse are TU Eindhoven as coordinator, Phoenix, Smart, Technobis and Bright. In the first phase of the project, the partners want to set up production processes with high predictability and fast development cycles.

In phase two of InPulse, the parties aim to develop approximately 30 different products with photonic integrated circuit (PIC) functionality. At the moment, only a small number of pioneering companies such as Effect and Technobis are able to do this. The InPulse program provides extra capacity to develop many more PIC-activated products. Smart is one of the three factories in this program.

More than the sum of the parts

Photon Delta is a public-private partnership between companies, regional authorities and knowledge institutions in the field of (integrated) photonics. Southeast Brabant is too small to compete with entities such as the US, China and Japan. Photon Delta must provide mass.

With this PhotonDelta plan, knowledge institutions, companies and the public authorities have aligned themselves with the ambition to achieve a turnover of €1 billion and generate 4000 jobs with at least 25 companies by 2026 within an ecosystem that generates further activity and employment for the Netherlands.