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London Tech Week

PhotonDelta lands €1.1B to put Netherlands on world map for photonic chip technologies


The Dutch cross-border ecosystem of photonic chip technology organisations, PhotonDelta, is today announcing it has secured €1.1B in public and private investment.

The investment includes €470M of funding obtained through the National Growth Fund (Nationaal Groeifonds), solidifying the Dutch Government’s national plan to transform, cement and expand the Netherlands into a global leader in the next generation of semiconductors. The rest of the amount is co-invested by various partners and stakeholders.

The programme will run for six years and will enable PhotonDelta alongside its partners to further invest in photonic startups and scaleups, expand their production and research facilities, attract & train talent as well as influence the adoption and development of a world-class design library. By 2030, PhotonDelta aims to create an ecosystem with hundreds of companies, serving customers worldwide and a wafer production capacity of 100,000+ per year.

What are photonic chips?

Photonics refers to the use of photons (light) to relay information. Photonic chips also called photonic integrated circuits (PICs), integrate photonic functioning into microchips to create smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices. PICs can process and transmit data with more effectiveness than their electronic counterparts. Similar to traditional chips, their production process is carried out using automatic wafer-scale technology. This allows for mass production of the chips with reduced costs.

Overcoming the expected limit to Moore’s Law is a crucial factor for PICs that also helps them tackle energy sustainability issues. PICs are currently in use in the data and telecom industry to reduce energy consumption per bit and increase speeds. With data and internet usage anticipated to be around 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027, PICs are a powerful alternative to limiting the impact on the climate. Photonic circuits will also soon play a necessary role for innovative sensors that can be mass-produced, leading to earlier disease diagnostics, safe autonomous vehicles & infrastructure, and more efficient food production.

PICs have emerged as one of the most important technological breakthroughs of the last decade. Not only do they allow for the creation of faster, cheaper, more powerful and greener devices, but also enable radical new innovations such as affordable point-of-care diagnostics or quantum computing to become a reality.

“This investment is a game-changer. It will make the Netherlands the home of the next generation of semiconductors which will have a profound impact on the whole European tech industry.” commented Ewit Roos, PhotonDelta’s CEO, “The ongoing chip shortage highlights the pressing need for Europe to create its own production capabilities for strategic technologies. We will now be able to support hundreds of startups, researchers, producers and innovators to boost this industry that will be as impactful as the introduction of microelectronics a few decades ago.”

Dutch chip plans

The Netherlands is increasingly being considered a pioneer in the development of PIC technology. Such investments are a testament to the support from the Dutch government for this emerging technology. The Netherlands not only hopes to be the home to PIC chip manufacturers but is also working on building a full globally recognised supply chain around the industry, marking the country as a hotspot for photonic integration.

The PhotonDelta proposal was submitted by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy in close collaboration with the Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, Delft University of Technology, Holst Centre, TNO, PITC, CITC, IMEC, Holst Centre, OnePlanet, Smart Photonics, Lionix International, Effect Photonics, MantiSpectra, PhotonFirst, Phix, and Bright Photonics.

The PhotonDelta ecosystem

PhotonDelta is an ecosystem specialising in the research, design, development, and manufacture of solutions with integrated photonics technology. The organisation connects pioneers in the field with investors and viable markets. PhotonDelta is helping to take the industry forward with funding, investments and R&D roadmaps. PhotonDelta operates out of the Netherlands but connects and collaborates throughout Europe.

The PhotonDelta ecosystem is currently consisting of 26 companies, 11 tech partners and 12 R&D partners. The organisation has jointly invested €171M in promising photonics companies, the likes of Smart Photonics, PhotonsFirst, Surfix, MicroAlign, Solmates and Effect Photonics.

In December 2018, a pact was agreed to in which Dutch companies, knowledge institutions and governments would pool a total of €236M in cash and in-kind resources, aiming at achieving the leading knowledge position in the field of integrated photonics, consequently creating a strong economic position in the world.

The PhotonDelta partners, collectively form a cohesive and cooperative industrial cluster. PhotonDelta’s strategies and ambitions for 2019-2026 are laid down in the National Plan of the Dutch government, which is structured along its four strategic pillars. The PhotonDelta Foundation plays the role of the implementing organisation for this plan and started its activities on 1st January 2019.

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