The University of Southampton

Silicon photonics consortium receives £4.8 million Prosperity Partnership boost

Published: 13 July 2017
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The University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre is entering into a ‘Prosperity Partnership’ with Rockley Photonics as part of a £4.8m scheme to advance silicon photonics technology.

Over five years, the University’s Silicon Photonics Group will receive £2.7m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), working with Rockley Photonics – who will contribute a further £2m. The University will provide an additional £148,000.

The money will support research into the use of silicon photonics technology within communications networks in data centres. The aim is to improve their speed and energy efficiency by changing the data centre architecture. Silicon photonics is an emerging technology that uses optical signals to transfer data between computers, servers and the wider world.

Graham Reed, Professor of Silicon Photonics at Southampton, said: “Dr Andrew Rickman, Chief Executive Officer of Rockley Photonics, is the world’s leading entrepreneur in this field. We have a long history of working together in many different ways, since 1989, and this collaboration is almost the perfect fit for the remit of the Prosperity Partnerships – a truly mutual relationship between university and industry.

“At Southampton, our expertise and facilities offer a unique environment for silicon photonics research and innovation. One of the world’s most pressing problems is how to handle our relentless desire for more data, and we are striving to make significant improvements. The Prosperity Partnership is the perfect vehicle for our work with Rockley Photonics; it enables a relatively young, growing company to invest in university research at an early stage.”

Dr Rickman commented: “Rockley Photonics and the University of Southampton team have a long-standing history of working together. Our partnership, built up over many years, demonstrates the value of relationships between academia and commercial enterprises such as ours. It gives us the ability to combine resources and academic excellence and focus on ground-breaking, early-stage technologies, such as silicon photonics.

“Research in this area is progressing quickly, and in the very near future, this game-changing, disruptive technology will soon have a huge impact on the architecture of large data centres; improve the power and computing capacity of new consumer devices and provide robust sensing solutions in a variety of industry sectors, such autonomous vehicles and biomedical. All this at dramatically lower cost and with considerably lower power requirements.”

The new Prosperity Partnership is one of several nationwide receiving a combined £31m of government funding from the EPSRC and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This is being matched by a further £36m from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, plus £11m from universities’ funds, totalling £78m in all.

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