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ACTPHAST targets record growth in photonics innovation for Europe

Published: 11 June 2015

ACTPHAST, Access Centre for Photonics Innovation Solutions and Technology Support, is a unique one-stop-shop programme funded by the European Commission, the UK partners include the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton to provide next generation optical fibre, and Oclaro for InP technology among 23 of the leading research institutes in photonics from across Europe involved in the programme.

ACTPHAST projects are aimed at addressing specific photonics manufacturing challenges in a company’s new product development process which if solved, can result in accelerated time-to-market, revenue growth and new job creation. ACTPHAST is particularly geared towards rapid innovation projects of typically 6-9 months duration, with a low administrative burden on companies and up to 100% subsidy available for SMEs.

The current ACTPHAST programme runs for 48 months from 2014 to 2017 and is open to any UK company that could benefit from photonics based technology. In its first 15 months of operation to date, ACTPHAST has granted approval for 29 photonics innovation projects of companies, the majority of which are SMEs, from 10 different European member states as follows:

• Belgium: Lambda-X, Laser2000, Abc Interieur
• Finland: Lumichip, Oplatek
• France: Cimel Electronique, LovaLite SAS
• Germany: Fibotec Fiberoptics, Silicon Line
• Ireland: Pilot Photonics
• Italy: Evoelectronics, Italray
• Poland: Airoptic, Kongsberg Automotive, KSM Vision, SMARTTECH
• Spain: Luz WaveLabs, FYLA
• The Netherlands: Avantes, MA3 Solutions, SATRAX, Technobis, VTEC, XiO Photonics, PhoeniX Software
• United Kingdom: Fibercore, Holoxica, Lynton UK, Synaptec

"Overall we are very pleased with the progress since the start of the ACTPHAST program,” commented Prof Hugo Thienpont of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Project Coordinator for the ACTPHAST program.

"The first set of approved projects involve a range of exciting new applications targeting high growth market opportunities in areas such as Medical and Life Sciences, Machine Vision, Automotive, Aerospace, Lighting, Optical Communications, Energy and Metrology where photonics is recognised as a key enabling technology.

"The projects are utilising the full spectrum of technology platforms and value-chain activities offered by ACTPHAST from modelling and design, to prototyping, characterisation, packaging and integration, and finally reliability and testing. It is particularly pleasing to see that many of the projects entail multidisciplinary teams of experts from more than one ACTPHAST Partner working in collaboration together and with the companies’ own R&D personnel”.

Examples of the exciting innovation projects currently being supported by ACTPHAST are:
 • Fibercore (UK): Development of a novel fibre with an ultra-high performance hermetic barrier for use in harsh environments
• KSM Vision (Poland): Development of a machine vision-based inspection system for quality control of cap-feeding and its placement on pharmaceutical bottles in an automatic packing process
• Lumichip (Finland): Demonstration of a high power (UV) LED module with ultra-low thermal resistance and high die packing density
• Pilot Photonics (Ireland): Development of custom lasers for gain switched comb generation as a key enabler for the next generation of high density optical networking transmission solutions
• XiO Photonics (The Netherlands): Feasibility study of a novel free-space coupling concept of laser diodes to a beam combiner chip 

While the first set of approved innovation projects are now underway and at various stages of progression, ACTPHAST continues to receive and process up to 20 new project requests every month from companies across Europe.

“In addition to those countries where we already have active projects underway and many more requests for new projects, we are also currently assessing project requests from companies in Austria, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Switzerland,” noted Peter Doyle of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and ACTPHAST Central Contact Point & Outreach Coordinator.

“It is really important that the message gets out that ACTPHAST is open to every country and company in Europe, and to that end we have a dedicated Outreach team working with local industry and innovation clusters in every region to raise awareness of the program and to encourage companies to engage in innovation with photonics”.

Over half of these companies are classed as “photonics-enabled” in that their core expertise is not in the photonics domain but in developing end products for a wide range of industry sectors from Biotechnology to Food Processing to Consumer Goods, where innovation with photonics components can add significant value to those end products.

“As one of the leading research centres for next generation optical fibre, we are very happy to be part of the ACTPHAST program,” commented Mr Tom Carr, Business Development Manager at the ORC and ACTPHAST Outreach Representative in the UK.

“ACTPHAST provides a fantastic opportunity for UK companies to access cutting edge technology and expertise, especially SMEs who often do not have the resources or infrastructure to benefit from the enabling power of photonics”.  

By the end of 2017, ACTPHAST aims to have supported a total of up to 200 photonics innovation projects by European companies leading to an incremental 12M€ in R&D expenditure by industry, the generation of 120M€ in additional revenues for the companies, and the creation of 600 new high value jobs in Europe.

Companies interested in applying for support should take the first step by watching the ACTPHAST movie at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl88JFPgeFo and visiting the ACTPHAST website at www.actphast.eu to register their interest.

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