DAILY NEWS Nov 16, 2012 7:00 AM - 0 comments

Lighting a Canadian path to the global silicon photonics market

Photonic Industry Consortium and CMC Microsystems lead with national action plan

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Together with members of Canada’s photonics R&D community, the Canadian Photonic Industry Consortium (CPIC) and CMC Microsystems have taken critical first steps towards a national action plan that will help companies exploit the commercial potential of silicon photonics.

The organizations recently co-hosted a workshop on silicon photonics in Ottawa, while also creating a ‘think tank’ on the topic. With participation from Canadian, European and Asian innovators, this dynamic session facilitated discussion on Canadian R&D strengths, industry needs, and key opportunities in silicon photonics. Outcomes from the workshop will contribute to the development of a national roadmap that will help Canadian firms capitalize on the global silicon photonics market which is expected to grow to more than $2 billion by 2015.

Silicon photonics is an evolving technology

Silicon photonics is an evolving technology that combines laser and silicon technology on the same chip, creating the potential to dramatically increase the data processing speed, power and performance of computers and other applications. With a focus on these and other benefits, the interactive workshop brought together more than 70 representatives from industry, government and academia. This included more than 20 leaders from Canadian SMEs and multinational companies such as Ericsson, Huawei, Cisco, and Ciena that represent end-users of silicon photonics. It also provided a platform for scientists from five Canadian universities and the National Research Council Canada to promote photonics concepts and research programs. In support of these interests, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), which allocated more than $16 million to optics and photonics projects last year, presented funding programs for industry-academic collaboration.

Workshop participants concluded that Canada has significant capabilities in silicon photonics, but noted that concerted R&D collaboration among universities, research institutes, component companies and multinational network equipment suppliers is required to harness the true potential of this technology. Given the early stage of silicon photonics, there are many complex technical challenges to be addressed. And as a nation, Canada does not have the scale and scope of resources required to address all facets of silicon photonics. For example, the country lacks packaging and prototyping facilities that enable components to be tested in applications and systems quickly and efficiently. Participants emphasized that industry-academic, national and global R&D partnerships will be essential to overcome such hurdles, if Canada is to fully exploit silicon photonics.

Increasing demand for high performance

With the increasing demand for high performance, low cost, and customized components in telecommunications, life sciences and other sectors, there are lucrative opportunities in the evolving silicon photonics market. This includes the potential to market leading-edge network equipment based on high-value Canadian-designed components that are difficult to replicate. By pooling its photonics R&D expertise and resources, and working with industrial scale fabrication facilities, Canada could bring its technology strengths to bear and emerge as a global supplier of this technology. CPIC and CMC Microsystems will focus on this objective as they lead the development of a national action plan that maps out large scale and niche opportunities for Canadian firms in silicon photonics.

“This workshop generated new ideas on how to further develop Canada’s capabilities in silicon photonics, and help to establish Canada as a global leader in this emerging technology,” said Robert Corriveau, President and Executive Director of CPIC. “Silicon photonics opens-up new research and commercial opportunities in many sectors, and Canada is starting to establish distinct R&D strengths in this field. We aim to help Canadian companies to exploit the capabilities of this technology, and develop new applications that increase Canada’s share of the global silicon photonics market. This includes connecting our firms to some of the best photonics research talent and capabilities in the world.”

Building on its mandate to enable and support the creation and application of micro- and nano-system knowledge, CMC Microsystems will play a key role in the development and implementation of the national action plan. As part of its product offering, CMC Microsystems, and its wholly owned subsidiary DMT Microsystems, enable Canadian innovators from academia, industry and government labs to design, fabricate and test photonics prototypes. CMC efficiently acts as a conduit to Canada’s research community and brokers new R&D partnerships.

“This session provided a valuable opportunity to solicit feedback on silicon photonics from developers and end-users,” said Dan Gale, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of CMC. “Consistent with our technology roadmap, we aim to help academic and industrial researchers explore the possibilities offered by silicon photonics and microsystems integration more broadly. The outcomes of this workshop will influence the development of our photonics offering and network of technology suppliers. This will help us to better meet the needs of innovators who aim to develop and commercialize silicon photonic devices and systems.”

“TeraXion is making a strategic investment in silicon photonics to further reduce the footprint, power consumption and cost of our products,” said Michel Cyr, Research Director of TeraXion. ”This workshop provided a valuable overview of the photonics research landscape in Canada, including potential R&D collaborators and capabilities. These linkages are invaluable as we continue to develop our next-generation silicon photonics platform, and seek new ways to increase our competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”

Workshop provided a forum to meet one-on-one

The workshop also provided a forum to meet one-on-one with IME to discuss its silicon photonics R&D foundry services and potential projects that take advantage of these capabilities.

“Leveraging the multi-disciplinary capabilities across A*STAR research institutes, IME has established value-added capabilities in silicon photonics and related technologies to enhance the innovation capacity of the global microsystems industry,” said Dr. Andy Lim Eu-Jin, Scientist at IME. “This includes an extensive design library of components and a full range of foundry and packaging services. We look forward to continuing this dialogue with Canadian innovators, and exploring opportunities for mutually beneficial research and business collaboration in silicon photonics.”

Canadian Photonic Industry Consortium (CPIC)

The Canadian Photonic Industry Consortium (CPIC) is an industry-led organization that aims to increase the competitiveness of Canada’s photonics sector by accelerating the application and adoption of novel Canadian photonics technologies across the economy. Founded in April 2012 following a merger of the Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations (CIPI) and the Canadian Photonic Consortium (CPC), CPIC strives to improve the productivity and profitability of Canadian photonics companies by facilitating knowledge exchange and business collaboration; linkages between university researchers, technology developers and end-users; and the identification of new domestic and international market opportunities. Based in Québec City, CPIC was founded by Mr. Robert Corriveau and ten inaugural members that span different areas of photonics expertise and end-user sectors.

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