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Integrated Photonics is a key technology that will enable many innovations in the coming years. In a series of 5 articles we look back on the Photonics PIC Summit Europe. Read the other articles, once published, here.

Although the Photonics industry is essential to Europe’s green and digital transition, the supply chain is still far from perfect. Lutz Aschke, Managing Director Mahr Group and president of Photonics21, was clear in his call directed at the whole photonics value chain. “We represent a $100 billion industry, we are active in almost any relevant new application, there’s no industry that can function without photonics, but we really need to team up with more downstream industries and other deep tech initiatives.”

PIC Summit Europe 2022

Aschke spoke at the PIC Summit Europe 2022, held in Eindhoven on November 7 and 8. His lecture focused on the huge opportunities that lie ahead for the photonics industry. “At Photonics21, we want to be the one-stop-shop for companies that want to solve any problem that can be answered by photonics. With our more than 3000 members, we unite the European photonics ecosystem and perform as the official advisor to the EU Commission on EU photonics strategy implementation in the EU framework programs. Our combined market share is 16 percent of the global industry, we are second only to China.”

And although the European photonics industry is growing at three times the rate of the EU’s GDP, there is still much more to look for, Aschke said. “A stronger photonics partnership can serve a wide range of industries and applications. Think of instant diagnosis of major diseases, monitoring the quality of food from farm to fork, accident-free road transport, smart cities, and many more. We can take care of zero downtime in a terabit economy, as well as empowering Industry 4.0 for a million new jobs.” At the same time, Aschke admits, the broad range of possibilities may be the industry’s strength as well as its weakness. “Where to start if you are crucial to hundreds of potential killer applications?”

European Chips Act

The solution, Aschke said, is in long-term investments in pilot manufacturing. “Iit’s time to scale, we need to develop from vision to action. To get there, we need relevant prototypes with a middle-sized technology readiness level.” Also, Aschke asked for a move towards larger-scale manufacturing of PICs in Europe. “From pilot lines, we need to move to more start-ups and eventually more big production facilities. We expect the European Chips Act to help us achieve those goals.”

The funding itself is not entirely solved either. Aschke points out two major gaps in the funding scheme: “There’s clearly a lack of early-stage capital to commercialize the prototypes and fund the first stages of business development. The growth phase is the second funding gap, driven by the lack of investors with both the expertise needed to invest in scaling the photonics businesses and the significant resources associated with such investments.” Aschke added that the $600 million funding gap is most apparent in equity. “We have to ask ourselves: what’s wrong there? There’s enough money around, investors are simply unaware of photonics. It’s our job to explain what they can expect from us.”

PIC Summit Europe 2022 is a new congress, one of two photonic chip conferences in Europe and will return annually. It is expected to take place again next year in November. PhotonDelta is the lead organizer of the congress; the program was set up together with the Eindhoven University of Technology and IPSR-I.


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