Eindhoven, 20 April 2023 - During King Willem-Alexander's visit to the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven on April 20, he gained insight into the value chain of integrated photonics in the Netherlands and Europe from various perspectives. This emerging chip technology is accelerating thanks to a €1.1 billion program led by PhotonDelta. With demonstrations at Holst Centre and roundtable discussions at PhotonDelta, the King learned about the essence of the technology, its applications, and its importance for the future of the Netherlands and Europe.
Ewit Roos, CEO of PhotonDelta, is very pleased with the day's outcome. "The King's visit is a tremendous honor for the ecosystem. It underlines once again the importance of integrated photonics for our country. We told him about the applications of integrated photonics for innovations in medical diagnostics, autonomous driving, the agricultural sector, and data communications. PhotonDelta and Holst Centre are central to the development of this new value chain. For the King, this was certainly a wonderful opportunity to get the most complete picture possible of the quality of the unique position of the ecosystem and all the opportunities that still lie ahead."
Photonics is all about the interaction between light (photons) and matter. Through photonics, data can be transmitted at the speed of light, reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency. Integrated photonic chips, considered a key technology worldwide, enable the development of smaller, faster, and energy-efficient devices. This will lead to innovations that will help solve the major challenges of our time and contribute to a healthy and sustainable future.
The Netherlands has recognized the opportunities of integrated photonics through the National Growth Fund. PhotonDelta, the ecosystem of organizations in photonic chip technology, has mobilized public and private investment totaling 1.1 billion euros through this fund to transform the Netherlands into a leader in the next generation of semiconductors. The investment consists of 470 million euros through the growth fund, with the rest coming from other partners and stakeholders. It is all part of the Dutch government's plan to strengthen the country's position as a world leader in integrated photonics.
The King first visited Holst Centre, a collaboration between the research centers imec and TNO. Researchers from different disciplines develop new technology for photonic chips and prototypes that companies can use for their production process and new products.
The King was given a tour of Holst Centre's laboratory and attended demonstrations of the application of photonics in various sectors. Representatives from Signify, Effect Photonics, Delta Diagnostics, Quix Quantum, and Lionix explained the different stages in the value chain. During this tour, the main focus was on the applications that help solve society's critical challenges.
Kathleen Philips, director of imec at Holst Centre: "Integrated photonics is one of the pillars of Holst Centre's strategy. By combining the expertise of imec and TNO, many aspects needed in the development and production process can be offered, such as design, prototyping, testing, and manufacturing. We combine the photonic microchip technology of imec in Belgium, the complementary photonic platforms in the Netherlands, the design expertise of imec in the Netherlands, and the optics and systems integration knowledge of TNO to help develop new sustainable solutions in different industries."
The subsequent visit to PhotonDelta, also at the High Tech Campus, began with a presentation on the ecosystem. In recent years, PhotonDelta has grown this community from 12 to 60 stakeholders who together form a value chain that conceives, develops, and makes photonic chips and solutions based on them. The roundtable discussion covered topics such as industrialization, application technology, and European cooperation. Phix Photonics Assembly, Smart Photonics, and Trumpf Photonics Components addressed the challenges and possible solutions in scaling up the most crucial industrialization processes. Following this talk, Synopsys NL and NXP discussed the challenges around application strategies: creating a library of easy-to-use building blocks for new applications. Finally, the European playing field came into focus through PhotonDelta itself and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. This covered Europe's ambitions around strategic autonomy and the impact of the European Chips Act. Photonic chips have been designated as a key technology by the European Commission. Security of supply for digital technology is the guiding principle in the Chips Act.
Ton van Mol, Director TNO at Holst Centre: "Strategic autonomy does not mean developing a copy of the global semiconductor value chain in Europe, but taking unique European positions in these chains where we can be 'world-class'. This implies interdependence through quality and capacity rather than taking over one-to-one what is already happening elsewhere. Integrated photonics is one such position where Europe can excel."
PhotonDelta is an ecosystem of organizations that conceive, develop and make solutions based on photonic chips. PhotonDelta supports the system by stimulating collaboration between stakeholders, providing funding, and connecting them to the market.
Holst Centre, a collaboration of imec and TNO, brings together expertise in wireless sensor technologies and flexible electronics under one roof. The sharing of specific knowledge in an open structure enables the alignment of research and innovation with societal issues in health and vitality, energy and climate, and mobility and industry 5.0.
Pictured below: Dutch King Willem-Alexander and CEO of QuiX Quantum Dr.-Ing. Stefan Hengesbach