The goal of PhotonDelta is a new generation of semiconductor technology. Photonic chips open up the opportunity of producing devices that are significantly faster and cheaper to make, and also consume significantly less electricity. This is important because data and internet use is expected to account for about 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027. So the development of photonic technology will not only address societal challenges such as sustainability, it is also expected to open the door to a new European industry and a huge range of new applications including quantum computing.
Ewit Roos, CEO of PhotonDelta
““The ongoing chip shortage highlights the fact that Europe urgently needs to develop its own manufacturing capabilities for these types of strategic technologies. We can use this grant to support hundreds of startups, researchers, manufacturers and innovators and in doing so give this industry a boost that will have as much impact as the introduction of microelectronics a few decades ago.”
Public private Investment
PhotonDelta, an international ecosystem of organisations in photonic chip technology, has mobilised public and private investment totalling €1.1 billion to fast-track the Netherlands to a position of leadership in next-generation semiconductors.
The €1.1 billion investment provided by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and other organisations is intended to scale up 200 startups and their production capacity, develop new applications for photonic chips, expand infrastructure and train talent.
The investment includes a conditional award* of €470 million in funding via the National Growth Fund, with the remainder coming from various partners and stakeholders as co-investors. It is part of the Dutch government's national strategy to strengthen and expand the country's position as a world leader in integrated photonics.
The six-year programme will help PhotonDelta and its partners to further invest in photonic startups and scale-ups, expand manufacturing, attract and train talent, drive adoption and develop a world-class design library. By 2030, PhotonDelta aims to have developed into an ecosystem of hundreds of companies, with customers around the world and a production capacity of more than 100,000 wafers per year.
Photonic Integrated Circuits
Photonics is the use of photons (light) to transmit information. Photonic chips, also called photonic integrated circuits (PICs), integrate photonic functions into microchips to make smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices. PICs can process and transmit data much more effectively than their electronic counterparts. As is the case with these traditional chips, the manufacturing process is based on automated wafer-scale technology. This allows the chips to be mass-produced, reducing costs.
A further important factor is that PICs can take us past the predicted end of Moore's exponential growth law and also help address issues of energy conservation and sustainability. PICs are mainly used in the data and telecom industries to reduce per-bit power consumption and increase speeds. With data and Internet use expected to account for about 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027, PICs represent an efficient way to reduce climate impact. Photonic circuits will soon play an important role in mass-produced, innovative sensors as well. This will lead to earlier diagnosis of diseases, safe self-driving vehicles and infrastructure, and more efficient food production.
Data & Telecom
Global data traffic is doubling every two years. As the rate of growth is likely to increase further in the future, optical communication and networking technologies are essential instruments for accommodating this growth in an energy-efficient and sustainable manner. The biggest challenge within this domain is the high energy consumption associated with data infrastructure. If no savings are made, data and Internet use is expected to amount to about 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027. This figure includes the energy consumed by end users on the one hand, and the energy consumption of data centres on the other. 5G, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence will further accelerate this trend. Photonics delivers improvements in speed, weight and energy consumption.
Europe faces major challenges in the field of life sciences and health: an ageing society, the increase in age-related diseases and the rising costs of the healthcare system. The development of mobile, wearable photonic devices (combined with advanced biosensors for direct point-of-care diagnostics and treatment that assess the wearer's medical condition and well-being) can contribute to early detection and diagnosis of diseases, as well as earlier and more targeted treatment. Photonics will eliminate the need for a hospital visit for many treatments or consultations.
The availability of affordable sensors is the biggest challenge standing in the way of a phased introduction of autonomous driving. Due to the advantages of photonic chips (light in weight, high speed, low cost), self-driving transport is looking increasingly feasible. This has positive implications for road safety and the productive use of time that is currently lost while travelling. Photonics can also have a significant positive impact on battery management in electric vehicles and the controls used in traditional cars. In the aircraft industry, sensor systems are the main application for photonics.
Feeding a world population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 will require a drastic increase in food production. Furthermore, this increase must be achieved sustainably, without excess nitrogen or excess CO2 emissions, and preferably also in an approach where vegetable proteins replace the animal proteins in our current diet. In addition, food safety is an important precondition. Precision agriculture is the solution to this challenge and also an area where photonics can play a major role. All the requirements related to safety, health and sustainability can be met by using photonics-based sensor systems.
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Holland High Tech looks actively for initiatives worthy of growth fund finance and unites technology industries and research organisations in value chains. We put proposals and broadly based programmes on the agenda, support research organisations and companies in jointly developing their plans, and lobby to create support.