New photonics ‘pilot line’ for SME

The NanoLab@TU/e will expand in the coming years with something called an ‘open access pilot line’, which will enable the SME sector to have photonic chips made to order. The new facility forms part of a larger European project that seeks to drastically reduce the time and expense involved in making new high-tech products containing integrated photonics. The Eindhoven part of the project involves an investment of 1.77 million euros.

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photo Florian Lemaitre

Project leader Victor Dolores Calzadilla of the Flux-based Photonic Integration Technology Centre tells us that 60 percent of the equipment costs of the new facility in the NanoLab@TU/e is being met by the European Fund for Regional Development. The other seven hundred thousand is coming from TU/e. “To start with, a select group of three Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) will be given access to the pilot line, and will also take part in the evaluation. Once it becomes clear that the facility is functioning properly, we will distribute seven free vouchers each worth fifty thousand euros among other interested businesses in the region. At the end of the project term, end 2022, the facility will then open its doors to all companies.”

The failure rate and the throughput time of this new pilot line should both be much lower than in today's production facilities, and overall this should greatly reduce the development costs of new photonic products. The idea is that within ten years of its completion, the project should help to create thousands of jobs.

High barrier

Integrated photonics is an upcoming technology with a potential market worth hundreds of billions. Innovative SMEs are frontrunners in this development, but the R&D costs form a high barrier for these small companies.

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