UK group to partner with SFI on new €3.4m Cork-based photonics centre

14 Mar 2018

Image: asharkyu/Shutterstock

US-based photonics company Rockley Photonics has signed a deal with SFI to create a new R&D centre based at Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Government have been busy Stateside signing deals with various research and governmental bodies, including a new partnership announced with the US-based – but UK-headquartered – engineering giant Rockley Photonics.

As part of the deal, the company and SFI will jointly pump €3.4m into a new photonics R&D centre at Tyndall National Institute in Cork to advance silicon photonics from the lab to market, addressing the growing demand for faster and more energy-efficient data communications in data centres.

The three-year collaboration will be between Rockley Photonics and the SFI-funded Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC) based at Tyndall, and will see the creation of five highly skilled roles.

Among the centre’s tasks will be to find ways for data centres to keep up with the incredible demand for bandwidth, with today’s market shifting to transport rates of 100Gbps and expected to jump to 400Gbps in the near future.

This will create a major increase in energy usage as well as scalability issues unless new technologies such as silicon photonics are developed and deployed.

Impact on large data centres

Dr Andrew Rickman, founder, CEO and chair of Rockley Photonics, said: “This investment with the SFI research centre IPIC will enable us to combine our expertise and utilise Tyndall’s state-of-the-art facilities to develop groundbreaking early-stage technologies.

“[This] will not only have a huge impact on the future architecture design of large data centres, but will also improve the power and computational capacity of new consumer devices, and provide robust sensing solutions in the autonomous vehicles and consumer device sectors as well as others.”

IPIC’s director and head of photonics at Tyndall, Prof Paul Townsend, added: “The investment will not only advance IPIC’s optical modulator and photonics integration technologies into products designed for volume production, but will also strongly position both IPIC and Rockley to take competitive advantage in the data-comms market, which is expected to reach $6.4bn by 2023.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic