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The establishment of New Origin at the University of Twente’s Knowledge Park (Kennispark Twente) aims to boost the semiconductor industry significantly. Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are becoming increasingly vital for fast data transmission and processing, especially in sectors like telecommunications, data centers, and high-performance computing. Using silicon nitride in these chips provides a robust platform for photonic applications, including sensors, micro-spectrometers, and emerging quantum technologies.

Financial and collaborative backing

The project, which requires an investment of €25 million for its initial phase, is backed by a coalition of notable entities, including the University of Twente, PhotonDelta, Oost NL, and Invest NL. The collaborative effort aims to secure detailed financing and manage risk distribution effectively. Additionally, PhotonDelta is investing over €50 million to ensure the Netherlands remains a leader in next-generation chip technology.

Technological advantages of silicon nitride

Silicon nitride is chosen for its superior properties in photonic applications. It offers a stable platform for creating PICs that can handle high data transmission rates. Notably, silicon nitride-based devices have been shown to reduce auto-fluorescence, which can interfere with signal integrity in photonic circuits. Research at the Instituto de Microelectrónica de Barcelona highlights that stoichiometric silicon nitride treated at high temperatures in an argon atmosphere can reduce photoluminescence intensity by up to 95%. This makes silicon nitride an ideal material for high-performance photonic chips.

Leadership and vision

The project is led by nanotechnologist Guus Rijnders from the University of Twente, who aims to establish a ‘pure-play PIC Foundry’ dedicated to designing and producing photonic chips. Arne Leinse, CEO of LioniX International, expressed confidence in the project’s potential: “We have a lot of money and a lot of possibilities. Now we go for it and make it happen.” The emphasis on creating an independent facility for PIC production underscores the strategic importance of this initiative.

Global collaboration and future prospects

Ewit Roos from PhotonDelta stresses the necessity for international collaboration, stating that global partners must be involved from the start to ensure the success of New Origin. The facility is expected to address data transfer bottlenecks in data centers and enhance the Netherlands’ position in the high-tech industry. The project is well-positioned for future expansion with additional support and equipment funding secured through the National Growth Fund.