PhotonDelta: Building an integrated photonics ecosystem

The integrated photonics research in Eindhoven was at the basis of PhotonDelta, an academic and industry cluster consisting of researchers, chip designers, foundries and software developers, that aims at global leadership in the area of integrated photonics and applications. CEO Ewit Roos tells about the main activities and ambitions.

‘PhotonDelta was initiated by TU/e and the Brainport region, with the explicit aim to quickly grow into a national initiative,’ Roos says. In 2018, PhotonDelta presented the National Plan Integrated Photonics, which resulted in a joint cash and in-kind investment of about 240 million euros by Dutch industry, knowledge institutes, universities, regional and national government.

‘Over the past two years, we have spent about 25 million euros on investments in the integrated photonics supply chain, to help develop, produce, assemble and package photonic integrated chips,’ Roos tells. ‘Since our budget isn’t that large, we try to invest our scarce resources as smart as possible. A nice example is the recent funding acquired by SMART Photonics. PhotonDelta acted as the initiator there, investing a small budget and bringing together different parties to multiply our funding, leading to a total investment of 35 million euros.’

Three main lines of operation

In general, PhotonDelta operates along three lines, its CEO explains. ‘Our first priority is to make sure that the companies in the supply chain are sufficiently funded to bridge their valley of death and invest in scaling and industrializing their operation. A reliable, advanced supply chain to manufacture the most innovative applications, is critical for the success of the Dutch integrated photonics industry. We allocated a significant budget to start programmed development in close collaboration with industry. With the engineers of the Photonic Integration Technology Center (PITC), companies can develop their next generation products and technologies, a second priority of PhotonDelta. We initiated the creation of dedicated product roadmaps, starting with biosensing and automotive, to explore and set the specifications for promising applications. Finally, we are expanding our ecosystem, by connecting new (foreign) companies and a dedicated startup program as of January 2021, building new applications based on the innovative capacity in PITC and the manufacturing capabilities of our supply chain.’

“Research is our umbilical cord. We need our top of the bill researchers to develop sound visions about the impact.”

Ewit Roos | Chief Executive Officer

Ambitious goal

With a little help of the funding partner, PhotonDelta set itself an ambitious goal for 2026: by that time, the Dutch integrated photonics industry should have achieved a total revenue of one billion euros, 25 new companies should have been launched, and 4000 people should be working in this sector. ‘This is only possible if we use our limited resources as smart and effectively as possible, set up a decent market communication strategy that informs companies in a realistic way about the possibilities and opportunities our supply chain for integrated photonics offers, and if scientific research keeps feeding us with the latest insights and breakthroughs,’ Roos sums up.

Research as umbilical cord

Though PhotonDelta itself does not fund scientific research, it strongly advocates the importance of a continuous support for academic research in integrated photonics and related fields, Roos emphasizes. ‘Research is our umbilical cord. We need our top of the bill researchers to develop sound visions about the impact and certainly the critical enabling function of integrated photonics in dealing with great societal challenges of today and tomorrow. And then it is up to us to connect that vision with the existing demands, expertise and ambitions of industry.’

More information: www.photondelta.com