EU projects – Technology Scouting – Business Innovation

H2020 Insights: Advances in Photonic Integrated Circuits


Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) use light to perform optical functions by incorporating numerous optical devices. In PICs, information signals are imposed on optical wavelengths typically in the visible spectrum or near infrared region. Various devices found on a PIC may include optical amplifiers, optical lasers, receivers, waveguides, detectors, gratings, multiplexers, de-multiplexers, and attenuators among others.

With the growth of photonics, about 19 projects specific to PICs have been funded within the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme. Two of the projects, PIXAPP and 5G-PHOS, are funded within the Innovation Action (IA) funding scheme while 6 others are funded within the Research Innovation Action (RIA) scheme. Expectedly, PIXAPP and 5G-PHOS are the projects with the highest funding of 15.6 and 9.6 million euros, respectively (see the below image for funding distribution across the projects in PICs field). The rest of the projects are funded under the European Research Council (ERC), Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) and SME funding schemes.

The most involved private companies in this technological area are XIO Photonics BV (Netherlands), Lionix International BV (Netherlands) and Berenschot Groep BV (Netherlands). Other key players involved in PICs projects are VTT (Finland), CEA (France), University College Cork (Ireland), Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands), Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (Greece) and European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC).

The previously mentioned PIXAPP project provides the European SMEs a one-stop-shop to enable them to move their PIC based R&D technologies from the laboratories to the market by bridging missing gaps in the value chain, from assembly & packaging, through to equipment optimization, test and application demonstration. The project 5G-PHOS aims at exploiting the powerful PIC technology to fabricate 5G broadband wireless networks for dense, ultra-dense and Hot-Spot area use. Projects in Research and innovation action (RIA) uses PICs to develop and build myriad technologies such as:

  • Photonic needles for spectral tissue sensing as diagnostic tools for screening tumours (InSPECT project).
  • Leveraging advances in complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) to develop a novel CMOS compatible low-loss silicon nitride waveguide based PIC technology to be used in in the field of optical coherence tomography (OCT) for ophthalmology (OCTCHIP project).
  • Development of new wafer-scale technology for direct and intimate attachment of III-V Indium-Phosphide (InP) photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and BiCMOS electronic chips (ICs) to be used in data transmission (WIPE project).
  • Integrating microwave engineering and photonics by developing a disruptive photonic integration platform that will enable the development of very large scale photonic integrated circuits (VLSPICs) with cascaded stages of tunable structures for analog and digital signal processing that allow functionalities in microwave systems that are complex or totally impossible in the microwave domain (HAMLET project).
  • Creating a universal memory by combining opto-magnetism and spintronics with electronic and photonic integration technologies. This novel technology will be in the form of a spintronic-photonic memory chip demonstrator with 3 orders of magnitude higher write speed and 2 orders of magnitude lower energy consumption (SPICE project).

Companies in the photonics industry which are interested in H2020 funding should watch out for these open and forthcoming calls:

  1. ICT-03-2018-2019: Photonics Manufacturing Pilot Lines for Photonic Components and Devices
  2. ICT-04-2018: Photonics based manufacturing, access to photonics, datacom photonics and connected lighting
  3. ICT-05-2019: Application driven Photonics components
  4. DT-ICT-04-2020: Photonics Innovation Hubs

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