PhotonDelta, a cross-border ecosystem of photonic chip technology companies, has received €1.1 billion in public and private funding to help the Netherlands become a leader in next-generation semiconductors.
The investment comprises €470 million from the Dutch National Growth Fund (Nationaal Groeifonds), with the remainder coming from a variety of partners and stakeholders. It’s part of the Dutch government’s overall strategy to solidify and strengthen the country’s position as a global leader in integrated photonics.
PhotonDelta and its partners will be able to invest more in photonic startups and scaleups, expand manufacturing and research facilities, recruit and educate people, promote adoption, and establish a world-class design library as a result of the six-year initiative. PhotonDelta hopes to have built an ecosystem with hundreds of enterprises servicing clients all over the world by 2030, with a wafer production capacity of 100,000 or more per year.
Photonics is the science of transferring information using photons (light). Photonic chips, also known as photonic integrated circuits (PICs), combine photonic functionality with microchips to build devices that are smaller, quicker, and more energy efficient. PICs are far more capable of processing and transmitting data than their electronic equivalents. Automatic wafer-scale technology is used in the production process, just as it is with conventional chips. This would enable bulk production of the chips while lowering prices.
PICs, crucially, can transcend Moore Law’s predicted limit while also assisting in the resolution of energy sustainability challenges. PICs are now being utilized in the data and telecom industries to minimize energy consumption per bit while also increasing speed. PICs are a potent approach to reduce the impact on the climate, with data and internet use predicted to account for roughly 10 percent of global electricity use by 2027. Photonic circuits would soon play a key part in the development of mass-marketable sensors, paving the way for quicker illness diagnosis, safer autonomous cars and infrastructure, and more efficient food production.
“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,” said Ewit Roos, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at PhotonDelta. “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.”
“The Netherlands is considered a pioneer in the development of PIC technology, and thanks to the continuous support from the Dutch government, we have been able to build a full supply-chain around it that is globally recognized as a hotspot for photonic integration,” added Mr. Roos. “Photonic chips are one of the most important technological breakthroughs of the last decade. Not only do they allow for the creation of devices that are faster, cheaper, more powerful and greener – they also enable radical new innovations like affordable point-of-care diagnostics or quantum computing to become a reality.”
There are now 26 firms in the PhotonDelta ecosystem, 11 technology partners, and 12 R&D partners. SMART Photonics, PhotonFirst, Surfix, MicroAlign, Solmates, and EFFECT Photonics are members of a partnership that has invested a total of €171 million in potential photonics firms.