Innovation Support Fund Announced for SME Uptake of Photonic Integration Technology

Posted Feb 17, 2021

The open innovation program, OIP4NWE, has launched its innovation support fund to stimulate uptake of integrated photonics technology by SMEs. Seven SMEs will receive innovation support from the OIP4NWE Consortium.

By providing innovation support to SMEs across North-West Europe, OIP4NWE contribues to the competitiveness and innovativeness of European SMEs in the global markets. The pilot line has now launched its innovation support fund. Seven SMEs are eligible for receiving innovation support and working together with OIP4NWE’s partners in an open innovation framework to help mature their PIC-based products. Professor Jürgen van Erps, Vrije Universiteit Brussel - Brussels Photonics said that the fund provides SMEs in the North-West Europe region with a unique opportunity to get innovation support for maturing their PIC-based products.

Application Areas

Integrated photonics is a technology in which manipulation of light takes place on a chip. This allows for product innovation that exploits the PIC advantages, amongst others compactness, cost and robustness. The technology can have a substantial benefit in a large range of markets, including Data and Telecom, Medical Devices and Life Sciences, Infrastructure and Transportation, and Food and Agriculture.

Three application partners – mBryonics, PhotonFirst (formerly known as Technobis IPS) and VTEC Lasers & Sensors – are currently testing and validating the entire pilot line: PIC manufacturing, external optics and packaging with established designs. mBryonics is working on free-space optical communication, PhotonFirst works on PIC-based structural health monitoring applications, and VTEC works in the fiber optic communications domain.

The other parties involved are the companies AIXTRON SE (Germany) and SMART Photonics (Netherlands), along with academic partners Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands), Tyndall National Institute (Ireland) and Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium), clusters Photonics Bretagne (France), NanoMicroMaterialsPhotonics.NRW (Germany) and PhotonDelta (Netherlands).

Three Manufacturing Stages

OIP4NWE consists of three manufacturing stages for creating the PIC-based modules. SMART Photonics will carry out the frontend manufacturing of photonic chips, using state-of-the-art fabrication technologies with an increasing degree of automation. The photonic chips can be interfaced to the outside world using freeform optics fabricated at the Photonics Campus Gooik of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. This includes mode conversion tapers, high-quality micro-optical and micro-mechanical components with sub-micrometer precision, and optofluidic devices for lab-on-chip applications. Finally, the photonic chips will be packaged at Tyndall National Institute, Ireland, in order to connect the PIC with the outside world via glass fibers and electrical wiring. Processes include highly accurate optical alignment, high-speed electrical interconnections and solutions for thermal management.

Innovation Support Fund Practicalities

Interested SMEs can fill in an expression of interest form to check if their idea is in scope with the innovation support fund. The application deadline is three months after the call opens: 15 April 2021. Evaluation of the applications will start in April 2021 and the outcome will be announced in June 2021. A second call may follow to complete seven successful applicants.

Innovation Support Fund Covers:
  • Design verification for compatibility check of the PIC design with the OIP4NWE capabilities
  • Manufacturing of the PICs, external optics and packaging

Innovation support has a value of max. €50k. They will ask for a 20% contribution from the SME on the total project cost up to €62.5k (in this case the max. support of €50k is reached) and 100% of the cost above €62.5k.

More details about the innovation support fund and application criteria can be found here.