The national government and a number of provinces, regions, companies, and knowledge institutes have come together to invest €236 million in accelerating the development of integrated photonics. Under PhotonDelta's flag, all partners, including the province of Overijssel, Oost NL, and the University of Twente, signed a joint covenant for this purpose. With this broad co-operation, PhotonDelta Netherlands wants to position itelf as a global leader and bring photonics onto the market.
Integrated photonic chips work with light particles (photons) instead of electricity, which makes them faster, more accurate, more economical, and more reliable than conventional chips. This technology has many useful applications: cheaper and more efficient data centers, 5G, accurate sight technology for self-propelled vehicles (LIDAR), highly sensitive sensors for measuring distortions in aircraft wings or bridges, and small, affordable medical scanners. These applications are not only of commercial interest, but also contribute to solving societal challenges such as affordable healthcare. The market for integrated photonics is expected to double every 2.5 years, as it has in the past. Because of this potential, the EU has appointed photonics as one of five key technologies.
The signatories of the PhotonDelta plan are committed to achieving a turnover of €1 billion and 4000 jobs by 2026, with at least 25 companies within an ecosystem that generates further activity and employment in the Netherlands. This will help the country organise the masses in order to maintain its position as a forerunner.
Eddy van Hijum, economy minister for the province of Overijssel, is pleased with the covenant. "The region of Twente and the province of Overijssel have put photonics on the government's agenda. We have lobbied for a national investment program. Knowledge institutions and companies in Eindhoven and Twente in particular form a global hotspot for photonics, and we intend to expand this partnership. This will lay the foundation for a smart, energy-efficient manufacturating industry in our country and strengthen the national economy and employment rate.”
Development company Oost NL has been actively involved in regional and national developments in the field of integrated photonics since 2016. CEO Marius Prins says, "Photonics is the future, and one of the most important innovative key technologies worldwide. The Netherlands is a leader in the field of integrated photonics, partly due to the knowledge level within companies and knowledge institutes in Twente, Eindhoven, and Nijmegen. By joining forces, we can strengthen that position and bring innovations with social impact to the market.”
Photonics in Twente
About 100 researchers are currently working on photonics at the University of Twente, organised within the MESA+ institute. This is one of the largest concentrations in this field in the Netherlands, enjoying worldwide fame. Through a collaboration with the Saxion University of Applied Sciences and various spin-offs in the field of photonics, they are part of a powerful regional ecosystem. Via the Fraunhofer Project Center, there is also a strong connection with German industry and knowledge institutions. Important areas of research include sensor applications in the biomedical domain, safe quantum communication based on photonics, lasers with ultra-narrow bandwidth, passive devices, optical filters and amplifiers, and integration with CMOS and other material systems.