Europe’s Photonic Computer Chip Companies Seek $4.5 bn EU Funding to Boost Industry Competitiveness

Executives representing a consortium of Europe’s leading “photonic” computer chip companies have urged the European Union to allocate €4.25 billion ($4.54 billion) in funding to support the rapidly growing photonic semiconductor industry. The move aims to enable the European photonics sector to compete more effectively with counterparts in Asia and the United States.
BE SemiconductorPhotonic semiconductors utilize light, instead of traditional electrons, for performing calculations. This innovative technology offers distinct advantages, including faster processing speeds and lower power consumption, making it increasingly valuable in applications such as data centers and automotive systems, Reuters news report said.

During a summit in Eindhoven, the group of photonics industry leaders presented EU officials with an ambitious eight-year plan. The plan outlines strategies for fostering European supply chains, as well as ensuring that smaller companies have access to manufacturing facilities for test runs.

Johan Veenstra, CEO of SMART Photonics, emphasized the critical need for manufacturing, testing, and packaging capacity. He stated, “Currently, the EU has a vibrant and growing integrated photonics industry, however, without volume manufacturing, testing, and packaging capacity, we are incredibly vulnerable to global events and the policies of competitor countries.”

The European Union has previously identified photonics as a strategic technology and highlighted it as an area eligible for potential funding under the €43 billion Chips Act passed in April. However, the specifics of the resources dedicated to photonics remain unclear.

SMART Photonics, a contract manufacturer of photonic chips, secured $110 million in funding in July, which included support from the Dutch government, as well as debt funding from chipmaker NXP, and equipment manufacturers ASML and VDL Groep, to facilitate expansion.

Currently, a significant proportion of photonics chips, like most semiconductor chips, are predominantly manufactured in Asia, with substantial intellectual property originating in the United States. This over-reliance on external sources and the limited European manufacturing capacity pose a threat to the EU’s economic security and resilience.

The joint statement calling for EU support was signed by prominent companies, including XFAB and Aixtron from Germany, SMART Photonics and Phix Photonics Assembly from the Netherlands, VLC Photonics from Spain, Almae from France, and Ligentec from Switzerland.

PhotonDelta, a public-private partnership in the Netherlands dedicated to funding photonics, also joined in the appeal for investment. The funding would play a pivotal role in accelerating the development and growth of the European photonics industry, enhancing the region’s global competitiveness.

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