In microelectronics IC designers and design houses form a large group, much larger than the number of people involved in IC fabrication. In Photonics the number of experienced PIC designers is today very small.
We expect that the demand for PIC designers will increase rapidly when qualified commercial processes become available.
Many OEMs and end-users will not choose to hire and train ASPIC designers within their own company when first starting out with ASPICs. We are already seeing specialist design houses established to work with fabless and labless SMEs and companies.
Starting your own PIC design company is an interesting option for PhD students educated in the field since the capital investments required are relatively low, mainly in software licenses. The availability of a broad group of PIC designers will give a large boost to the development of the field, and will create a business sector with a significant amount of hightech employment. In addition the adoption of the application of photonic integration technologies is bringing additional business to the software vendors involved in supplying design solutions for this market.
Vendors are reporting double digit growth numbers over the last couple of years, and it is expected that this will further increase as a result of the accelerated pick-up by industry now that the generic processes are becoming available in (semi) commercial offers. Foundries and software vendors will need to work together and invest in process design kit (PDK) development.