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EPIC works on European PIC strategy

Carlos Lee, Director General, at EPIC highlights work being done to ensure Europe plays a leading role in the manufacturing of Photonic Integrated Circuits








During the EPIC AGM 2022, EPIC shared that one of the reasons for the significant reduction in European Commission support for its European photonics partnership was the simple absence of large, ambitious, disruptive ‘European scale’ proposals from the photonics community. 

Therefore, EPIC has embarked on a project to document a strategy for Europe to play a leading role in the manufacturing of photonic integrated circuits (PICs). This topic was chosen for three reasons: firstly, the evident synergy with the ongoing scaling of European electronics capability and capacity; secondly, the interest in a sovereign European PIC capability for strategic European value chains; and thirdly, the growing strengths and prioritisation of PIC activities across the European Union. 

EPIC held meetings on 1 June in Brussels, Belgium and 20 September in Basel, Switzerland, with representatives from the entire PIC manufacturing value chain. The current challenge is to estimate the amount of investment that would be needed by both public and private authorities over the coming decade to position Europe to play a global significant role in PIC manufacturing. 

There have already been several initiatives of European PIC pilot lines. While these are very valuable for research and development, and training of PIC technologists, they are not to be considered as industrial pilot lines for volume production, and so should be considered as prototyping lines. One also needs to be realistic about the ambitions. The overall conclusion from PIC analysts, including data from Yole, is that Europe is firmly in third place in terms of PIC manufacturing output. Over 90 per cent of the current Silicon Photonics market is ‘transceivers’, and two US companies (Intel and Cisco) dominate and hold over 87 per cent of this market. InP global production in 2021 was distributed as follows: USA 53 per cent, Asia/China 35 per cent, and Europe only 12 per cent.

The PIC market is still at its infancy and many applications are still to be developed. In the Roland Berger market report commissioned by PhotonDelta, the current PIC market is at its initial stages, having grown with a CAGR of approximately 80 per cent between 2017 and 2022, hence the use of PICs in applications other than communication still being minimal. Market and technology leadership is one aspect to be considered, another is the European industry sectors where PICs will be of strategic importance: automotive, communications, computing, health, industry 4.0, and space and defence. 

Established in 2003, EPIC has continuously advocated for a competitive photonics manufacturing landscape. A third meeting of the EPIC PIC Manufacturing Advocacy Group is scheduled for 15 November 2022 in Munich, where downstream systems integrators are invited to share their perspectives and roadmaps for future PIC functionality in system solutions. The question to be discussed is: how should European PIC companies prepare to address future opportunities?


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