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Celebrating the strengths of the Future Photonics Hub

Published: 23 August 2023

The Future Photonics Hub recently held its annual Industry Day in Sheffield. Key representatives from academia, industry, government, and research and technology organisations gathered to hear from the Hub’s academics about the important advances they have been making in photonics manufacturing research. These have been in areas such as optical fibres and lasers, mid-infrared photonics, silicon photonics, and advanced materials.

Professor Gilberto Brambilla, Hub Manager, said: “The Future Photonics Hub has fostered innovative ideas for nearly a decade and interaction with industry has always been key to success and a prompt technology exploitation. The Hub Industry Day has become a periodic meeting where our industrial partners have the opportunity to help shape future research to the benefit of the UK economy in response to the government’s Innovation Strategy. In this particular meeting, semiconductors have been highlighted as a key technology that is going to help the UK maintain its status as a leading innovator in a highly competitive, high-value global market.”

Professor Sir David Payne, Principal Investigator of the Future Photonics Hub, introduced the Industry Day with a keynote speech providing an overview of the EPSRC-funded Future Photonics Hub and reflecting on the Hub’s substantial successes as the programme reaches a mature stage. He noted that the multiplier on the initial EPSRC funding provided by industry had reached 4.4 in selected years and the acquisition by Microsoft of the ORC spin-out company Lumenisity that formed a major part of the Hub industrial funding.

Regarding the Industry Day, David said: “It was gratifying to see the excellent attendance at the Industry Day. The Hub prides itself on providing national leadership in photonics manufacturing and this requires alignment with the needs of UK industry. I was pleased to see the interest our work has generated and the subsequent discussions have been very helpful in providing direction for our future work.”

The day also featured a poster session which provided an excellent networking opportunity, allowing academics to discuss their research with various industry partners and showcase their contributions to the programme.

The Industry Day was held alongside the UK Semiconductors Conference. This was apt given the UK Government’s recent publication of the National Semiconductor Strategy which recognises the UK’s strength in photonics and compound semiconductors, as well as the importance of integrated photonics. As a result, the Government have committed to investing into the semiconductor sector up to £200 million over the years 2023-25 and up to £1 billion in the next decade.

Sean Redmond, Managing Partner of SilconCatalyst UK, introduced the Conference with an invited talk centred around semiconductors. Sean said: “There has never been a better time to be in the Semiconductor industry. Recognised by national governments as a strategic imperative, hundreds of billions of public investment is washing through the global industry at exactly the same time that private investment has woken up to the richness and reach that semiconductors are providing. The relentless drive to continue the scaling effects that have powered this industry beyond $500 billion per year will now be accelerated by innovation in design architecture, materials and advanced packaging to double the size of the industry to $1 trillion per year before we reach the year 2030.”

The key semiconductor research being carried out by the Future Photonics Hub was emphasised together with its alignment with the intention of the UK government to secure a world-leading strength in semiconductor technologies, particularly silicon photonics. Professor Goran Mashanovich provided a talk about the MISSION (Mid-Infrared Silicon Photonic Sensors for Healthcare and Environmental Monitoring) project that is spearheading the creation of new sensors that monitor drugs, speed up cancer detection and measure the impact of climate change, while Dr. Milos Nedeljkovic delivered two presentations on CORNERSTONE, the Optoelectronic Research Centre’s silicon photonics prototyping capability.

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