New pilot line to be incubator of photonics multinationals in Eindhoven
Photonics is an emerging technology with a potential multitrillion market. Innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are at the forefront of this development, but the R&D costs are prohibitive for them. That’s why 12 partners from northwestern Europe are creating an open access pilot line that will drastically reduce costs and time for the pilot production of new products. This new facility is projected to be the incubator of a thousand new companies and thousands of jobs. The 14 million euro project (OIP4NWE) is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and kicked off this week in Eindhoven.
Photonics is much like electronics, but instead of electrons it uses light (photons) as its workhorse. It uses much less energy, it is faster, and it opens up a wealth of new opportunities. One of the key problems photonics will help tackle is the exploding energy consumption of data centers, as photonic microchips consume much less energy than their electronic predecessors. Another example is a high-precision monitoring system for aircraft wings, bridges or tall buildings.
After two decades of basic photonics research, the first companies producing photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are now taking off – sparsely. One of the main hurdles is the high cost involved in R&D. Not only does the PIC production require expensive high-tech equipment installed in cleanrooms, but currently the production processes still have a high defect rate and are too slow. This was workable for basic research but not for commercial R&D. The technology readiness level, which ranges from 1 to 9, needs to be jacked up from the current 4 to 7. read more